Charges: Employee sexually assaulted woman in assisted living facility
A 59-year-old Pine River man faces six felony criminal sexual conduct charges after he was accused of sexually assaulting an assisted living resident with advanced Alzheimer's disease.
David Erwin DeLong appeared Dec. 22 before Judge Erik J. Askegaard in Crow Wing County District Court, following his arrest for failing to make his first court appearance on the charges in October. The Pequot Lakes Police Department issued a social media plea Dec. 19 to locate DeLong, who had a warrant for his arrest.
Pequot Lakes Police Chief Eric Klang said his department and the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office made numerous attempts to arrest DeLong at his home, but the suspect continued to evade arrest. Klang turned to the department's Facebook page for the public's help.
"We just thought we would put him on Facebook to shake the tree so to speak, and then that paid off for us," Klang said Thursday. "He had other family members that were around the area that obviously weren't very happy about it, and pressured him into turning himself in at the Pine River Police Department."
The criminal complaint filed against DeLong, who was employed at Heritage House in Pequot Lakes, outlines the witness statement and DNA evidence gathered to make the case DeLong sexually assaulted the 78-year-old woman in May 2016. The woman is nonverbal, wheelchair-bound and unable to feed herself, requiring around-the-clock care, the complaint stated.
At 11:06 p.m. May 8, a Pequot Lakes officer was dispatched to the Heritage House on the report of a possible sexual assault of a resident. The officer met with a staff member, working in the same building as DeLong, who reported she interrupted DeLong committing what she believed was a sexual assault.
The staff member said she was the only other person working in the building at the time, and wanted to leave for a cup of coffee between 9:15-9:30 p.m. She went to find DeLong to tell him, and noticed the door was closed to the room he was in. She told the officer she tapped on the door a few times, waited a second or two, and then opened the door.
Inside, the staff member said the resident was lying on her side in a fetal position with her backside positioned outwards, naked from the waist down. DeLong stood several feet away sweaty and out of breath, the staff member said, jumping up and down attempting to pull up his pants and underwear. DeLong allegedly turned around and looked at his co-worker, said "I," but then stopped, shaking his head before turning his back.
The staff member told the officer she was so shocked, she didn't know what to do. She closed the door and immediately reported what she saw to a nursing staff member working in the next building. That staff member contacted the director of the facility, who directed him to bring DeLong into the office for a conference call. DeLong allegedly denied the allegations during the phone call, and was sent home.
The officer made arrangements for the resident to be transported to Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd to undergo a sexual assault exam. While preparing the woman for transport, it was discovered she was wearing a different nightgown than the one the staff member observed when she walked in on DeLong. Staff later located the nightgown and a mattress pad from the resident's bed washed in the washing machine, and all on-duty staff denied placing the items there.
The remaining bedding, clothing and underwear worn by the victim were gathered and sent to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for analysis, along with the sexual assault exam kit completed at the hospital.
Four days later, DeLong voluntarily provided a DNA sample, which was also sent to the BCA. A DNA sample from the victim was also sent to the lab. In June, the BCA issued a preliminary report, indicating semen was identified on swabs taken from the victim as part of the sexual assault exam. In August, the lab issued a final report, which indicated DeLong's DNA profile matched the one found in the victim's exam.
DeLong was charged with six counts of felony third-degree criminal sexual conduct, when the victim is mentally impaired or helpless. He was summoned to appear in court Oct. 10, but failed to do so.
At his court appearance in December, DeLong was ordered to post a $50,000 bail with or without conditions. He is no longer in custody in Crow Wing County Jail and is scheduled to appear 9 a.m. March 8 before Judge Richard A. Zimmerman.
A separate investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health was conducted to determine whether there were other possible victims and whether the facility was in compliance with its license, both Klang and Donnie Anderson, director of nursing at Heritage House, confirmed.
"They (the MDH) weren't able to do anything right away, because he needed to be formally charged," Klang said. "So he didn't actually lose his ability to work in health care until after that summons was drafted."
Anderson said when the allegation came to light, DeLong was immediately suspended and was terminated within 48 hours of the investigation beginning. Anderson said DeLong passed the criminal background check conducted on him prior to his employment. A search of DeLong in the Minnesota court system showed convictions for misdemeanor traffic violations, but no previous sexual-related offenses.
Klang said once the charges were in place, DeLong was flagged in criminal background checks for potential employment at health care facilities.
Anderson, who was not hired at Heritage House until after the incident occurred, said a review of the facility's practices and policies by MDH showed they were in full compliance with all requirements under the license. The current provider license for the facility was effective as of Aug. 1, 2016, and expires July 31.
"We do all our own training here," Anderson said. "He (DeLong) had all the proper training. He had all of the proper annual trainings that needed to be done per our license, and we passed everything on our end."
Anderson said an investigation into whether there were more victims—which she said entailed numerous interviews with other residents and staff members—resulted in the conclusion there was just one victim. Anderson said there is no video or other outside surveillance in the building.
"We're very proud of our staff because they followed our procedures and our process to a T, the way they were supposed to, by notifying the police, by notifying our administrator, notifying the state of Minnesota Department of Health," Anderson said. "So all of our processes were correct, in place and worked and they still are in place, correct and are working."