Facility investigated twice before elderly resident rescued from nearby woods, state officials say

Facility investigated twice before elderly resident rescued from nearby woods, state officials say
·3 min read

A 79-year-old woman is still recovering after she was rescued from a wooded area three days after walking away from her assisted care facility in Chester County.

As Judy Pate recovers in an intensive care unit, her family’s attorney said they are working with law enforcement. The Department of Health and Environmental Control is also investigating the incident.

South Carolina Reporter Tina Terry visited the Helms-Gordon Residential Care Center on Monday and saw a DHEC official there too. In addition to DHEC’s current investigation into the facility, Terry learned there have been two others since last year.

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Last week, deputies said Pate was spotted on camera leaving the Fort Lawn facility around 9:14 a.m. Tuesday. But they said the facility didn’t report her missing until about four hours later.

DHEC gave Terry records showing the results of two surprise visits to the facility last year. During one visit, the inspector said “the ratio of residents to staff members exceeded the proper amount to provide adequate supervision during peak hours.” They said there were just “...three staff members on duty with 26 residents in the facility.”

When Terry stopped by, intending to ask how Pate was able to walk away without being seen last week, the manager declined to comment, but said she’d give Terry’s number to the owner.

Pate’s pastor told Terry he was thrilled to learn she was alive.

“This place just erupted and people were so excited and clapping,” said Antioch Baptist Church pastor Trent McLaughlin.

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McLaughlin said the moment he learned emergency workers had found Pate, there was rejoicing. It was something he and the community had prayed for.

“I’ve spoken with the family and we’re thanking God that she is where she is and she’s getting great care,” he said.

On Monday, an attorney for Pate’s family hinted legal action could be on the horizon.

“I am happy to report that Ms. Judy Pate’s condition is improving as she is still being treated at the ICU at Atrium Health Main in Charlotte,” the attorney said in a statement. “She is a tough lady and is fighting hard. At this time we are communicating closely with the Chester County Sheriff’s Office and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division in regards to the ongoing investigation into the Helms-Gordon Residential Care Facility. As for our plans to pursue legal action on behalf of Ms. Pate for the harm and injuries she has experienced, we fully intend to fight for Ms. Pate to receive justice in this horrific situation. Ms. Pate was a vulnerable adult entrusted to this facility and the facility let her and Ms. Pate’s family down. This is a very unfortunate matter, but one in which we plan to utilize all resources available to rectify the situation.”

Channel 9 will continue to follow the investigation and has asked DHEC let us know when it wraps up.

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