Thursday, May 28, 2009

Nevada woman to stand trial for alleged sister abuse

From the Mercury News in Carson City, Nevada (May 27)

A Carson City woman is scheduled to stand trial in June on a misdemeanor battery charge while authorities continue to investigate felony abuse allegations in the death of her disabled sister.

A home health nurse reported allegedly seeing Patricia VonDracek, 50, slap and punch her disabled sister, 55-year-old Sandra VonDracek in April.

According to police reports, sheriff's Deputy Josh Stagliano said Patricia VonDracek denied hitting her sister, but Sandra, who has a brain injury from a traffic accident 15 years ago, said Patricia hit her often.

Stagliano called paramedics and had Sandra VonDracek, a Navy veteran, taken to the hospital. It was his understanding, according to police reports, that hospital staff would attempt to get her placed into the Veteran's Hospital in Reno and she would not be returned to her sister's care.

Based on the witness and victim's statements, Stagliano submitted a report to the District Attorney's office for a warrant.

On May 21, records show Stagliano and another deputy went to VonDracek's home to serve the arrest warrant. While there, Patricia told them her sister had been returned to her home and died May 15 while sitting in a recliner in the living room.

Stagliano arrested Patricia VonDracek on a single charge of domestic battery and she was jailed on $15,000 bail. He then contacted detectives.

"He was extremely concerned and asked me to look into it," Carson City sheriff's Detective Craig Lowe told the Nevada Appeal.

In his report, Lowe said he located Sandra's remains at a Carson City funeral home and was able to photograph "numerous contusions and what appeared to be scratch marks on Sandra's face."

Lowe had the body taken to the Washoe County Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy.

Though a cause of death was not determined, the autopsy showed the woman suffered broken ribs and internal bleeding. Toxicology tests and a neurologist's report on a brain examination are still pending.

"According to the attending pathologist, there were signs of non-accidental injuries from numerous incidents," Lowe wrote in the report. He also said Patricia VonDracek's 14-year-old son told police that a week before his aunt died, his mother had stomped on her lower stomach as she lay on the floor.

The boy "claimed he restrained his mother and removed her from the room telling her to calm down and that he would care for Sandra," the report said.

Patricia VonDracek was interviewed by detectives and booked on suspicion of felony domestic battery with substantial bodily harm and felony abuse of a vulnerable person.

Her bail was set at an additional $100,000.