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Alleged Sexual Predator In Local Nursing Homes

 April 15, 2021 at 4:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Kinsee Morlan in for Annica Colbert….it’s Thursday, April 15. State Authorities Allowed an Alleged Sexual Predator To Job-Hop Among San Diego Area Nursing Homes… We’ll have that KPBS investigation after the break. But first...let’s do the local headlines. *** Starting today….VACCINE ELIGIBILITY is expanded in San Diego county TO ANYONE 16 AND OLDER.. Good news, right?? The bad news......getting an appointment was hard before, and it will surely get even harder... But COUNTY SUPERVISOR NATHAN FLETCHER SAYS San Diegans should stay chill and keep trying. “EVERY TIME WE’VE OPENED A NEW CATEGORY, IT’S GONNA CREATE A SURGE OF PEOPLE SEEKING OUT VACCINES, SO THERE WILL BE THE NORMAL FRUSTRATION WE’VE BEEN THROUGH MULTIPLE TIMES ABOUT CHALLENGES IN GETTING APPOINTMENTS, AND WE JUST ASK EVERYONE TO CONTINUE TO BE PATIENT.” *** THE SAN DIEGO CITY COUNCIL MET late into the night TUESDAY TO DISCUSS ONGOING RACIAL DISPARITIES IN our CITY’S POLICING. -- that discussion comes...AMIDST a NATIONAL OUTCRY OVER THE OFFICER SHOOTING OF DUANTE [[DAWN-TAY]] WRIGHT THIS WEEK IN MINNEAPOLIS, SAN DIEGO RESIDENT JEFFREY ALONZO KARAHAMUHETO [[KARA-MOO-HEH-TOE]] SHARED HIS EXPERIENCE. “EVERY TIME I START MY CAR, I ACKNOWLEDGE IT MIGHT BE MY LAST RIDE.I THINK ABOUT MY FAMILY AND FIENDS AND THE FUTURE I HOPE TO PARTICIPATE IN. THIS IS JUXTAPOSED WITH THE STARK REALITY THAT DUE TO THE COLOR OF MY SKIN MY RIGHT TO LIVE A FULL LIFE CAN BE STOLEN FROM ME DURING A PRETEXT STOP TO POLICE VIOLENCE. ONE BAD DAY MEANS MY LIFE IS GONE.” COUNCILMEMBERS SAY THEY’RE COMMITTED TO WORKING TOWARDS MORE EQUITABLE POLICE REFORMS. *** And also during that marathon meeting Tuesday night…the CITY COUNCIL VOTED UNANIMOUSLY TO contract with a new AMBULANCE COMPANY... They voted to CHOOSE “FALCK” AS IT’S NEW EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES PROVIDER… THE NEW CONTRACT WILL ADD AT LEAST 10 NEW AMBULANCES AND CREWS.. MEANING THERE WILL BE MORE PARAMEDICS ON THE STREETS AT A GIVEN TIME.. WHICH COULD HELP with RESPONSE TIMES. **** From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. California regulators allowed a nursing assistant to job hop among San Diego area nursing homes, even though they were aware of multiple sexual assault allegations against him, according to documents reviewed by KPBS Our investigative reporter Amita Sharma has that story… And Amita sits down with KPBS Midday Edition host Maureen Cavanaugh after to discuss her investigation. certified nursing assistant Matthew fluke at your warned 62 year old Gale to keep quiet. Right after he allegedly raped her twice in one hour at a Lamesa nursing home in January, 2020. He said he knows we address and everything and where I live. And all my personal business uses. So trust me, I know you're not going to say anything, even if you do, no one will believe you. They love me here. He had reason to think he could sexually assault women in nursing homes. With impunity state records obtained by KPBS show, the California department of public health. The very agency that is supposed to protect nursing home residents from predators knew that Fluker had allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct three years earlier, but the States still did not rescind his license. In fact, CDPH allowed fluke adjure to continue to work in nursing homes. Even as it investigated additional accusations that he sodomized a one woman in 2019 sexually assaulted another six weeks later and early last year, raped Gail, who didn't want her last name used. This is perhaps the worst and most horrifying story of serial sexual assault that I have ever heard in the long-term care setting. Mark is a lawyer for California advocates for nursing home reform. How many women would need to be assaulted before they felt like they needed to take action. pH did not revoke flickers license to practice as a certified nursing assistant until. August, 2020 the agency conceded in a letter to Flueckiger that month that it actually could have rescinded his license for any one of the Forrest sexual misconduct allegations against him dating back to 2017 or Natasha, Texas lawyer who sues nursing homes and abuse cases says is a damning self indictment. By CDPH. If each of these four incidents was enough to be revoked, why didn't you revoke it the first time? CDPH declined to answer that question and dozens others, the agencies only comment. It was a written statement saying it takes sexual assault allegations that nursing homes seriously CDPH his first chance to take away fluke teacher's license came shortly after May, 2017. When investigators learned that he requested oral sex from a woman. In exchange for cigarettes at Parkside health and wellness center in Alka hone lawyer, Jennifer theory says the state should have swiftly removed Flueckiger from caregiving. And that alone is an example of not being trusted to behave appropriately in a situation where you are providing care to them in 2019 after another sexual assault allegation CDPH again. Bypassed an opportunity to pull license in that case then 71 year old, Catherine got your Geralt limo accused the former caregiver of sodomized her during a diaper change at post post-acute in weeks later, Fluker was accused of falling a woman living at. Third alcohol nursing home called San Diego post acute. He resigned and then was quickly hired by Parkway Hills nursing and rehabilitation in Lamesa soon afterwards, pH investigators told Fluker they had found discrepancies in his statements about the sexual assault allegations against him, but they let him keep his job at Parkway Hills. Anyway, and few months later, he allegedly raped. Gale who remains traumatized. I always have nightmares. I'm always on guard. It has harsh words for CDPH, his handling of the flu Crutcher case, lazy and they're liars. They are, they don't like paperwork. They don't do their jobs. Lawyer. Tosh says CDPH is the legal immunity adds another layer of tragedy. You can not Sue them because they botched this investigation and allowed a serial rapist to run rampant County district attorney's office filed five felony sex charges against Pflueger in December after KPBS has stories on the avocado case, he remains in jail pending a trial. Joining me is KPBS investigative reporter Amica Sharma Amica. Welcome. It's good to speak to you, Maureen. Now this is an incredibly troubling report. Let me ask you, first of all, why can't the California department of public health or its officials be sued if they were negligent in this case? Generally speaking people who work at governmental agencies and. The agencies themselves have immunity from lawsuits. If those lawsuits are going after money damages, which they usually are, but that immunity is not. Unlimited. And the reason why the lawyer Ernie Tosh said you really can't Sue is it's next to impossible to win when you're suing the government. Uh, those cases are super, super difficult. And the lawyers who do take them. That usually ends up being the only kind of work that they do because they are just so complex. Now are allegations of sexual assault, usually enough to get a nursing home caregiver's license revoked? No, they're not, but the allegations are not to succeed. Then a caregiver's license and that didn't happen in this case in order to actually revoke a license, you've got to have a finding of abuse and that follows an investigation, but then, you know, not every allegation triggers an investigation by the California department of public health. And so it's, it's hit and miss here. And, and, and the other thing Maureen, that I think is important to mention is. There is no state database here. So nursing homes are not required to tell the state when they employ a certified nursing assistant. And so that allows candidates for these jobs to lie about where they worked and whether there were previous allegations against them at those previous jobs. Now the allegations made against this caregiver are crimes. If they are true, were they investigated by law enforcement back in 2017 through 2020. Yes. So Parkside health and wellness center contacted the alcohol police department back in 2017. And that's the cigarettes for oral sex trade. And police said that there was nothing that they could do about it. The next time that police were contacted that we know of at least regarding Matthew Fluker. It was in June, 2019. When. Uh, Katherine Gocha Geraldo Mo who lives lived at avocado. Post-acute accused of sexually assaulting her during the diaper change. But he was ultimately charged by the San Diego County district attorney. After your initial report on these alleged assaults, what are the charges against ? Matthew juror is accused of committing four accounts of lewd and lascivious acts on an adult dependent by a caregiver. And there is a. Fifth related felony charge. What about the care facilities where these incidents allegedly occurred? What was their response to the allegations? They would not call it. So they have had no response as you've been investigating this. Nope. Has fluke juror said anything about the allegations against him in court? He denies the allegations. He has pleaded not guilty. Are the alleged victims of these assaults, uh, Gail, Catherine, and other women. Are they still at the nursing homes where they say the incidents occurred? Gail is not, Catherine is not. And it record show that. Well, at least criminal prosecution records show that the woman at San Diego post-acute who said that ligature got on top of her. Um, she's actually at avocado. Post-acute where Catherine got your Geralt. Lemos says she was assaulted by flu pitcher. Now, Amelia, you must have gotten close to Gail. She described a horrible incident to you. What's your impression of how she's coping? Maureen. I interviewed her on a zoom call and she sounded absolutely shattered her her lives. It seems like it's irreparably changed. I think that came through during the interview that you heard excerpts of in the story, she was very, very emotional. It was. Obviously deeply painful for her to recall what happened. And there was some pauses during our conversation because of how hard it was for her to remember those details. Um, and just as an observer, It felt like she was reliving the trauma of it all. Now, family members Evers have just recently been allowed to visit their loved ones inside nursing homes. The first time since the pandemic shutdown, is there anything they should be asking about the staff or facility policy to make sure their loved ones are safe? They can ask. It is not clear how accurate the answers will be. I say that because there is a statewide website that's theoretically supposed to help families review how many complaints and categories of those complaints, like abuse are filed against a particular nursing home. But. When I reviewed on that state website, how the flu Goodyear allegations were recorded, they were not, some of them were not categorized as sexual abuse. One was erroneously categorized as an abuse case of a resident on a resident. And one was not listed as substantiated and one wasn't even listed at all. So there really is no way for a family to rest easy because we know on at least two occasions when flu Crutcher was accused of sexual misconduct at Parkside and sexual assaulted avocado. He was actually allowed to return to work. And the nursing homes did not notify families of the allegations again, as I said, incredibly troubling reported me though, but thank you so much. I've been speaking with KPBS, investigative reporter of Sharma. Thank you, Maureen. And that was Maureen Cavanaugh talking with Amita Sharma. *** Coming up… COVID caused an adoption boom for dogs and cats, but Not all pets did well during the pandemic. That story after the break. COVID 19 was tough on people but great for dogs and cats. There were high adoption rates and owners spent a lot more time at home….My family and I adopted a puppy...Dulcie May Hammett-Morlan….and yes, she’s here now scratching at my door begging to be let in because she’s not used to me being too far away from her for too long. But not all pets fared as well and local animal advocates hope to keep them close to the spotlight. KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson has details. A backpack sized Sulcata tortoise chomps on lettuce leaves at its Escondido home. (lettuce noise) The turtle named Ninja is surprisingly quick when the food supply moves. 16:02:48 – 16:02:54 “They are the terrible twos, but as a creature.” The ecoVivarium’s Shelley Oneida speaks lovingly of an animal that was about the size of a saucer when it first came here. 1q6:02:56 – 16:03:06 “They have all the wide eyed wonder of a little kid, and all of the destructive power of tank. All just in one. It’s great.” Ninja lives at the EcoVivarium because the tortoise’s owners were locked in a domestic dispute. Animal control came to Susan Nowike the founder and director of the EcoVivarium asking for help. She says reptiles didn’t get the same pandemic boost as dogs and cats. 16:40:27 – 16:40:54 “The opposite happened in the reptile world. Suddenly people were meeting difficulty circumstances where they were not able to care for the animal anymore. Because of job loss and the cost of the food and care and everything for the animal and there are no programs out there to supplement like there are for dogs and cats. So they were left with having to find homes.” The facility’s population swelled from 200 to 300 during the pandemic. Nowike says in one case a local pet show owner just walked away from his business leaving dozens of reptiles homeless. 16:36:13 – 16:36:21 “What do you do with hundreds of animals that need to be cared for the next 30 to 50 to 100 years.” The animals have homes here but Nowike pays a steep price. Thousands in extra vet and food bills each month at the same time that COVID cut them off from people. 16:39:42 -- 16:39:52 “visitation and our outreach programming and birthdays and all those kind of things were how we paid for the animal care. And all of that went away. “ Having kids interact with the animals is only possible now in small groups like a prearranged tour for the Alvarez family. Shelly Oneida is showing Levi the snake room. “(shelly) The fun fact about these is they’re very much like a usb you get their name wrong like four times. (levi) woooo. (shelly) this is miss piggy. She is a frog nosed snake.” That in-person interaction is what Nowike says makes the EcoVivarium unique. School groups used to be drawn to the up close experience. It also helped cultivate donors and people who might adopt one of the animals living here. 16:36:46 – 16:37:03 “We do hands on full cross curriculum education programs, that covid completely shutdown. Where the kids not only get to see the animals like at the zoo, they get to actually interact with them.” A local animal friendly non-profit hopes to help. The Animal Bond Academy produces youtube videos that highlight some of the region’s lesser known animal rescue and advocacy groups. 16:55:45 -0 16:56:09 Places like Penelope’s Purpose that focus on pig rescues. We recently visited Libby Lou’s (Safe Haven) in Boulevard and they focus on cow rescue. So these are all animals that may not be on the forefront of people’s minds but we wanted to make sure that the Animal Bond Academy videos kept all of these organizations relevant. The Academy’s Annie Petersen says once she started explaining how different animal advocacy and rescue groups work, the list of future projects got longer quickly. People started reaching out to her. 17:00:03 – 17:00:15 “I am still learning about organizations, small organizations that I didn’t know were in existence. New organizations that were planning on opening but didn’t.” Nowike says having the Animal Bond Academy video available is crucial to helping reestablishing the EcoVivarium’s contact with schools and the public. 16:48:34 --- 16:48:54 “They were able to see the people interacting with the animals and everything and see the kids eyes lighting up. And that is so impactful for someone who is trying to figure out is this a fit for my class, whether it’s virtual or in person. Is it a fit? They see that and they understand exactly what we do.” Nowike says anything that helps her organization’s connection with the public, will help her rebuild once the pandemic subsides. *** And that’s the show. Today’s my last day sitting in for Anica this week, so...before I go, I wanna just ask one more time for your support. If you appreciate the local news KPBS brings to you, become a member today by going to kpbs dot org slash donate and picking the membership level that works best for you and your budget. Thanks in advance.

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Certified nursing assistant Matthew Fluckiger was accused of sex crimes by women at multiple nursing homes in El Cajon and La Mesan-- and California Department of Public Health investigators knew. Yet, the agency waited years to revoke his license. Plus: how animals have fared this pandemic year -- turns out, if you’re a tortoise, not as well as a puppy.