The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 19, 2014

Damages sought in elderly woman's sex assault case


The Mankato Free Press

---- — HERMANTOWN (AP) — An 89-year-old woman who was raped at a senior living home in northeastern Minnesota received no treatment or counseling after reporting the attack and was sent to the mental health unit of a Duluth hospital against her wishes, court documents show.

A nursing assistant, Andrew Scott Merzwski, 30, has been sentenced in St. Louis County to more than four years in prison after admitting to sexually assaulting the woman at Edgewood Vista in Hermantown.

The victim was held for nearly three days at St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth following the attack in January 2013, the Star Tribune reported, citing court documents. Attorneys have suggested the home's staff and others doubted the woman's claim because she is in early stages of dementia and memory loss.

"This is horrendous," said Mark Kosieradzki, a Plymouth attorney who represents the victim and specializes in cases of nursing home neglect and abuse. "A vulnerable woman is strong enough to come forward and tell people she's raped, and then she's responded to with disbelief and locked up."

Hermantown police investigators were sent to Edgewood Vista after the victim's daughter reported that her mother had been raped. A week later, a nurse with the state Department of Health conducted a separate investigation and concluded a staff person at Edgewood had sexually assaulted the woman.

The woman is seeking punitive damages from Merzwski, Edgewood Vista and two administrators. Edgewood Vista is owned by Edgewood Management Group of Grand Forks, N.D., which issued a statement Wednesday saying that it cooperated with authorities in the criminal case. The statement did not address the lawsuit but said the safety of residents "is of the utmost importance."