Nursing home rape case troubling

Published: Monday, January 28, 2008 at 9:35 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 28, 2008 at 9:35 a.m.

SANDUSKY, Ohio - Nursing home worker John Riems had a temper and spent long periods in patients' rooms with the doors closed, neighbors and former co-workers say, troubling observations that have suddenly taken on a sickening weight.

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A nursing home worker has been accused of sexually assaulting patients.

The Associated Press

"We've had several residents, they don't want him touching them, they don't want him in their room,'' said Cynthia Wilson, a 47-year-old nurse's aide who said she worked with Riems for more than 20 years at several nursing homes. "A lot of them would refuse their meds just to keep him out of their room.''

Riems, 49, is charged with raping a paralyzed patient at the home where he was a night-side nurse, and police say he claimed to have attacked scores of others - so many that he couldn't recall them all.

Riems told police he had abused almost 100 patients since 1985, at up to 10 nursing homes, but could remember specific information on only about two dozen patients, Perkins Township Police Chief Tim McClung said after Riems pleaded not guilty last week to charges of rape and gross sexual imposition.

He could face more charges, McClung said.

"A couple of nursing homes are no longer in existence,'' the chief said. "So we're trying to get in touch with the former owners.''

Investigators from the state attorney general's office are assisting in the probe and have been interviewing nursing home employees and families of nursing home residents, spokesman Ted Hart said.

Police say Riems sexually assaulted a 55-year-old man as he lay partially paralyzed in his bed at the Concord Care and Rehabilitation Center, a one-story care facility.

His attorney, Troy D. Wisehart, had no comment, an employee at his office said Friday. There was no response to another call to his office seeking comment Saturday.

Nursing home director Jessica Short issued a statement saying Riems had been fired from Concord Care. She declined to give details, citing the investigation and patients' need for privacy.

Concord Care also said in a statement without identifying anyone by name that some former employees had made false statements to the media.

Wilson said she was fired in December after Riems accused her of neglecting to wash wheelchairs.

She said she saw him hit walls and medical carts and throw papers on the floor. He also would remain in a room alone with patients for up to an hour at a time, she said.

"We don't know what he's doing in the room with the doors shut so long,'' she said. "I've questioned him: ÔDzJohn, why are you in the room so long?' He would tell us all, ÔDzThis is none of your business.' ''

Another colleague, Olivia Burns, told the Sandusky Register she warned supervisors that Riems verbally abused patients by swearing at them. She resigned Tuesday after hearing of the arrest.

Wilson said she reported Riems' behavior to the nursing home's management, but nothing came of the allegations.

"If we're complaining about it, his record shouldn't be clean. There should be a record in his chart showing what he's doing,'' she said. "But nothing. Nothing. I don't understand it.''

The state Board of Nursing wouldn't say if there were previous complaints against Riems but said neither he nor the nursing home had been disciplined by the board.

Concord Care said it had been graded at 97 percent to 100 percent compliance with Ohio Department of Health regulations over the past four years.

Neighbors in Sandusky, a city of 26,000 west of Cleveland, said Riems and his wife seldom interacted with them in the two decades he had lived in their midst.

"Every year, they left a Christmas card on the windshield of our car, but we never met the man,'' neighbor Estella Kingseed said.

"He hardly talked to anybody,'' neighbor Janis Tarring said. "I knew to keep to myself.''

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