Nursing assistant gets jail for role in client’s death

A Mill Creek woman who used to work in an adult-care home was sentenced to nine months in jail Tuesday for not taking proper care of an ill 73-year-old woman who died at the facility in 2002.

Beth Suzanne Knowles, 31, pleaded guilty in April to a first-degree criminal mistreatment charge. She admitted not properly dispensing food, water and medications to Adela De Los Santos at the Alice House adult-care facility in Snohomish.

Two others remain charged in connection with the death. Both Eddie Lee Smith, 44, of Snohomish and Norma Tanya Infante, 45, of Everett are charged with manslaughter and criminal mistreatment.

They are scheduled for trial in September, deputy prosecutor Bonnie Tweten said.

All three worked at the now-defunct Alice House adult-care facility, one of 10 similar businesses operated in Snohomish County by Michael Goodwill and Goodwill Care Inc. The nurse assistant licenses of Knowles and Smith have lapsed, and Infante’s has been revoked, according to the state Department of Health Professions Quality Assurance.

The state closed down Alice house not long after De Los Santos died. State Department of Social and Health Services spokeswoman Deborah Schow said that Goodwill has sold the other nine businesses.

On Tuesday, defense lawyer Guss Markwell asked Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne to give Knowles a break because she had no previous criminal convictions.

The sentencing range for Knowles was between six months and a year behind bars, but Markwell asked the judge to waive jail time and require her to perform community service.

Tweten said the nine months, the middle of the sentencing range, is appropriate in this case.

In her guilty plea, Knowles admitted that she “recklessly” withheld the basic necessities of life.

De Los Santos, who was plagued with mental and physical health problems, was admitted to Providence Everett Medical Center’s Colby Campus in November 2002. She was in a coma, had a 105-degree temperature and her breathing was labored, according to court documents.

The emergency room doctor said lack of medication, liquids and food had put her into a coma and caused her kidneys to fail.

Goodwill was not charged with a crime. De Los Santos’ family filed a civil lawsuit and settled with Goodwill in 2005 for $400,000, documents said.

De Los Santos previously had been in a nursing home and developed “disruptive and aggressive behavior problems,” documents said. De Los Santos went to Alice House after Goodwill assured family members that his facility could handle a dependent adult like her, documents said.

Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or haley@heraldnet.com.

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