MEGAN SCHNIPKE, 32, of Columbus Grove, cries Friday as she was sentenced for her role in the death of Phyllis J. Campbell, a Pandora nursing home resident. Schnipke was convicted in November of forgery, a fifth-degree felony, and gross patient neglect, a first-degree misdemeanor. (Photo by Randy Roberts / The Courier)

Staff Writer

OTTAWA — A licensed practical nurse was sentenced Friday to 60 days in jail on charges related to a nursing home resident’s death.

Megan Schnipke, 32, of Columbus Grove, was also sentenced to five years of community control sanctions in the death of Phyllis J. Campbell, a Hilty Home resident.

Putnam County Common Pleas Judge Keith Schierloh also suspended Schnipke’s nursing license.

Schnipke should report to jail Wednesday, Schierloh said, and will be eligible for work release.

Campbell, 76, who had dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, wandered outside of the Pandora facility on Jan. 7, 2018, and died of hypothermia.

“My poor mother died and suffered in one of the most horrendous ways possible, and it was all totally preventable, had these nurses not taken all of these shortcuts and slacked off doing their jobs,” said Cindy Kuhr, a victims’ services representative, reading a statement from Steve Campbell, one of Phyllis Campbell’s sons.

Schnipke was convicted in November of forgery, a fifth-degree felony, and gross patient neglect, a first-degree misdemeanor, by a Putnam County jury. She was found not guilty of patient neglect, a second-degree misdemeanor.

The forgery charge was due to Schnipke’s false note saying Campbell was in bed, when Campbell had walked out of the nursing home hours before.

In an interview with Pandora Police Chief Scott Stant, which was played during Schnipke’s trial, Schnipke said the information about Campbell was provided by either Rachel R. Friesel or Destini M. Fenbert, two state-tested nurse aides working at Hilty Home that night.

Friesel, 37, and Fenbert, 20, both of Pandora, were each sentenced to 60 days in the Putnam County jail after pleading guilty to forgery, a fifth-degree felony, and gross patient neglect, a misdemeanor.

They were also sentenced to five years of community control sanctions and 100 days of community service.

The three former employees will pay a combined total of $4,536 in restitution.

Steve Campbell said after the sentencing that he had expected a harsher sentence for Schnipke, based on her supervisory role at the nursing home.

Overall, the family was pleased with the prosecution and felt the case came to a “fair outcome,” said Debora Klingler, one of Phyllis Campbell’s daughters.

Putnam County Prosecutor Gary Lammers worked with Deb Wehrle, a senior assistant attorney general with the state attorney general’s office.

Three of Phyllis Campbell’s grandchildren read statements prior to Judge Schierloh handing down Schnipke’s sentence.

The family forgives Schnipke, said Andrew Klingler, reading a statement from his mother, Debora Klingler.

But Campbell’s death “could have easily been avoided” if Hilty Home employees had checked on her and accurately documented those checks, the statement continued.

Schnipke “should not go unpunished,” and the punishment should include incarceration as well as Schnipke never working in a nursing home again, the statement said.

One of Phyllis Campbell’s granddaughters, Amber Kear, described her grandmother — “Phyllis, PJ, Gram, Grandma Campbell, Mom” — as the “glue” of the family.

“… Assumption and negligence cost Phyllis J. Campbell her dear life at the hand of three women,” Amber Kear said.

She criticized a set of propped-open doors at the nursing home as a “gamble.”

The doors between the memory care wing, which Campbell lived in, and the rest of the Hilty Home were propped open. Because they were open, no alarm went off when Campbell passed through them on her way outside.

Amber Kear said she tried to put herself in the shoes of Schnipke, Friesel and Fenbert. “Maybe they were just overworked, and the Hilty Home should be held responsible for this,” she tried to reason.

“And then accountability steps in,” Amber Kear said. “Accountability is a self-realization that one is, in fact, responsible for their actions, or lack of action in this case.”

Ashley Kear, another of Phyllis Campbell’s granddaughters, said that as a nurse, her initial response “was one of empathy.”

“While others were quick to cast judgment and place blame, I felt bad for the nurse involved. I thought, ‘My God, that could be me. That could be any one of us,'” she said. “I understand what it’s like to give 100 percent of yourself, and it still not be enough.”

Ashley Kear said she has worked in “staffing shortages” and knows that “people take shortcuts” in those situations.

“I hand it to the defense — an excellent job was done attempting to shift the blame and responsibility. Before I heard the specifics of the case, I would have agreed,” Ashley Kear said.

But once she learned more, “I was able to separate myself from the nurse that I had felt so badly for.”

This wasn’t a case in which the staff members were all “giving 100 percent,” she said.

Schnipke’s lawyer, Robert Grzybowski, said a “perfect storm” led to Campbell’s death.

A variety of people and entities are to blame, Grzybowski said, chiefly Hilty Home.

Schnipke wishes she could do Jan. 7, 2018, over again, Grzybowski said.

“Every day, for the past year, I’ve thought about this. Thought about what I would say to you,” Schnipke said Friday. “And I know there’s nothing I can say that’ll take away the pain you felt. And I’m very sorry.”

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