Employee at Tallahassee residential community arrested

Disabled victim found with burns, employee arrested
Posted at 12:30 PM, May 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-11 10:11:39-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - A nurse at the Sunrise Community is facing misdemeanor charges after a mentally and physically disabled adult in her care was hospitalized with "significant burns" on her body.  

Elizabeth McDonald, 18, was arrested on Thursday. She is referred to as a nurse in court documents, though WTXL ABC 27 is working to verify that information. 

According to a probable cause document, the victim had been staying at the Sunrise Community (Mahan Clusters Homes) on Mahan Drive for about a year when her mom was contacted by nurse at the community on January 13, 2018. 

The nurse said that the victim's face had red marks on it and informed the victim's mother that she was contacting the doctor. An hour later, the nurse called the victim's mom again, saying the doctor had advised Vaseline for the marks.

However, two hours later, court documents say the victim's mom got another call from the nurse who said the red marks were "more serious" than they originally thought.

The victim's mother was informed the victim's skin was peeling and that the victim was being transported to the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.

When the mother arrived at the hospital, staff quickly determined an inability to treat the victim's burns, so the victim was flown to the University of Florida Health Shands Burn Center in Gainesville. 

According to court documents, doctor's advised that the victim had suffered "near 3rd degree burns." The Department of Children and Families was alerted to the incident and began an investigation.

A few days later on Jan. 17, the victim's mother reported the incident to the Tallahassee Police Department.

An officer spoke with an Adult Protective Investigator with DCF and learned that the nurse who was taking care of the victim was Elizabeth McDonald. The DCF investigator's report indicated that the victim had sustained burns to 6 to 8 percent of her body, including her abdomen, face and neck. 

McDonald was put on suspension due to the investigation.

When a TPD officer spoke with McDonald in recorded interview, she said that the victim had an accident and needed a bath. She decided to give the victim a full bath and was checking the water's temperature before bathing her.

Documents say that McDonald increased the temperature because it was too cold, but once she found what she deemed an appropriate temperature, she put the victim in and began bathing her.

She told police that she soon noticed the victim's skin turning red so she checked the temperature again and found it was too hot. McDonald turned it down and completed the bath.

After the bath, McDonald said she alerted the nurse who ended up reporting the incident to the victim's mother. 

However, when officers spoke with the nurse who reported the incident, she said McDonald had not alerted her to all the injuries on the victim, instead, she only said something about the injuries that were visible on the clothed victim.

Recognizing the injuries as a skin burn, she notified her manager, the doctor and her supervisor about the incident. Documents say the reporting nurse was not aware of additional injuries until two hours later. 

The nurse told police she was confident the burns were from "scorching hot water," and stated that the injuries would have been present before McDonald dressed the victim.

Based on the investigation, probable cause was found to charge her with culpable negligence resulting in bodily harm (misdemeanor). A warrant was issued for McDonald's arrest on Feb. 2.

She was taken into custody on Thursday but has since gotten out of jail on a $1,000 bond. 

According to the Florida Department of Health, the Sunrise Community on Mahan Drive has never been disciplined nor has ever had a complaint filed against them.