Couple pleads guilty to adult abuse in Norfolk


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A couple pleaded guilty, each to their own roles, in starving, beating and neglecting an elderly man at an unlicensed group home in Norfolk.

Authorities responded to a call for help in April at the home on Hudson Avenue. They found disturbing conditions and several mentally challenged adults in need of care.

Pictures from court show the emaciated Alzheimer’s patient.

The man told authorities Carol Velez fed him only oatmeal and noodles. He had severe bruises and a gash on his head.

He said Velez hit him with a stick and neither she nor her live-in boyfriend, John Durham, did anything to help him — even when he fell down the stairs.

Court documents show the man’s wife was paying Velez $600 a month to care for him.

10 On Your Side reached out to a home health care expert for advice on how you could find safe care for your loved one.

“My best advice for residential care is to visit,” said Jan Ganderson, the Director of Nursing for Jewish Family Services.

Ganderson suggests you go into a facility unannounced and ask for a tour. “There should be a book that a person could ask to see that would show any citations the facility has had.”

Ganderson suggests keeping people in their own homes as long as possible. Insurance may cover all or part of the cost, so check. 

If you cannot afford it you can apply for assistance through Social Services. JFS does extensive background checks on its in home aides and supervises them.

“If you’re trying to hire someone on your own, ask for reference checks.” The person should be able to provide three references and two forms of identification. 

“Red flags, I think if it just doesn’t feel right, then follow your instinct.”

Velez made a deal with the court and is serving about a year in prison. If Durham is out, and as long as he abides by the terms of his agreement, his charge could be dropped next November.

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