By Marjie Lundstrom
The operator of a Sacramento elder-care facility is facing felony charges, including manslaughter, in the gruesome death last year of an 88-year-old resident.
Silvia Cata, 52, owner of Super Home Care on Bowman Avenue, was arrested Monday evening at her home near Northgate Boulevard and West El Camino Avenue, according to the state attorney general's office.
She faces felony charges of elder abuse and involuntary manslaughter in what is believed to be the first-of-its-kind criminal prosecution in California involving an elder-care provider.
Deputy Attorney General Steve Muni, a veteran prosecutor with the AG's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse, said he believes this is the first time the Department of Justice has pursued a manslaughter case against a caregiver in connection with an elderly resident's death.
Georgia Holzmeister, 88, who suffered from dementia and lived at Super Home Care since 2007, died last June after suffering massive, foul-smelling bedsores at the home. The sores on her buttocks resulted in sepsis, a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body develops a severe, toxic response to bacteria or other germs.
An emergency room doctor at Sutter General Hospital told investigators that the woman's Stage 4 pressure sores were among "the worst he has ever seen," according to documents filed by the attorney general in Sacramento Superior Court.
While criminal prosecutions of elder abuse declined precipitously while Gov. Jerry Brown was attorney general, the office announced plans last year to step up its efforts to build criminal cases statewide.
In California and other states, criminal prosecutions of nursing home workers - or operators of smaller care facilities, such as Cata's - have been relatively rare, with allegations of abuse or neglect frequently handled in the civil courts.
"We know abuse of our elders is becoming more pervasive, so we must become more resolute in our protection of them," Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said last year, in announcing the new initiative.
AG's spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill said Monday's arrest is part of that effort to hold caregivers criminally liable for abuse and neglect in their facilities.
Cata is being held in the Sacramento County Jail in lieu of $300,000 bail.
If convicted, Cata faces up to 12 years in prison on the elder abuse charge, which include two special allegations that the victim suffered great bodily injury, and that the abuse caused her death, Muni said.
A conviction of involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum term of four years.
Cata was first licensed by the state in 1996 to operate the residential care facility for the elderly, near West El Camino Avenue and Northgate Boulevard. She is licensed to care for up to six residents, but she told investigators she "normally maintains about two to three residents at one time," according to court documents.
Cata, her husband and her daughter were the facility's sole providers, the documents state.
In the last six years, Cata has had a series of run-in with state licensing officials. Among other things, she has been cited for alleged "poor record-keeping," dispensing over-the-counter medications without a doctor's order and attempting to care for at least one resident who should have been admitted to a skilled nursing facility instead.
Holzmeister's family had been paying Cata $2,800 a month to care for the woman, an amount later reduced to $2,000 when the family discovered she had been moved in with a roommate, documents show.
PHOTO CAPTION: Super Home Care on Bowman Avenue. Marjie Lundstrom/Sacramento Bee