DA offers new help to elderly



New division focuses on abuse, fraud

Thursday, May 12, 2005
St. Tammany bureau

Victims of elder abuse and their families can turn to a new division in the St. Tammany district attorney's office in suspected cases of fraud, caregiver abuse and other crimes.

The Elderly Abuse Prosecution Division is partially financed by a $40,000 grant from the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement. District Attorney Walter Reed tapped Assistant District Attorney Harold Bartholemew to lead the unit and hired a support staff that will operate out of the Franklinton office.

Reed said the division will work closely with St. Tammany law enforcement agencies and the Governor's Office of Elderly Affairs.

In a recent high-profile case, Derrick Garrett, a nurse at Southerland Place assisted-living center in Mandeville, was charged with raping an 82-year-old Alzheimer's patient at the center.

A grand jury indicted him on an aggravated rape charge, which carries a mandatory punishment of life in prison upon conviction.Besides physical and sexual abuse, the new division will investigate cases of cruelty, theft, fraud and other exploitation of St. Tammany and Washington Parish residents older than 60, said Houston Gascon, first assistant district attorney. He said the team will be trained how to work with victims who might not understand the crimes committed against them and won't be able to provide as much information as victims in other cases.

Gascon said he is hoping the one-time grant will be renewed annually.

This year, Reed's office will put up a 25 percent match to finance salaries for Bartholemew and an assistant.

Anyone who suspects an elderly person is being abused may call (985) 809-8383 in Covington or (985) 839-6711 in Franklinton.

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