Managers at LA senior care facility plead not guilty in COVID-19 deaths of 14 people

Three managers at Silverado Senior Living Management Inc. pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges stemming from the COVID-related deaths of a nurse and 13 people who lived at a residential care facility in Los Angeles.

Loren Bernard Shook, the company's chief executive officer, Jason Michael Russo, a company administrator at the time, and Kimberly Cheryl Butrum, a vice president, were charged last month with 13 felony counts of elder endangerment and five felony counts of violation causing death, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

The national chain, which specializes in caring for elderly residents with Alzheimer's disease and/or dementia, pleaded not guilty last month to the same charges.

The investigation into Silverado Beverly Place was launched after the facility reported the April 20, 2020, death of a 32-year-old employee, Brittany Ringo, District Attorney George Gascón said.

"As required by the protocols at the time, the facility was closed to outside visitors by Silverado in March of 2020. Yet, despite these protocols, an exception was made to admit a patient from New York," the county's top prosecutor said at a March 14 news conference detailing the charges. "Ms. Ringo died from COVID-19 after being exposed while working as a licensed vocational nurse for Silverado when she was directed on March 19, 2020, to admit this new resident who came directly to the facility from the airport. This individual had just arrived from a clinical setting in New York -- a COVID-19 hot-spot at the time."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Senior care facility charged in connection with 14 COVID-related deaths

The district attorney said the new resident -- who began displaying COVID-19 symptoms the morning after arriving and tested positive that evening -- had not immediately been tested for COVID-19 and had not been required to quarantine in isolation prior to admission as required by health protocols in place at the time.

"Those protocols were intended to slow the spread of this dangerous virus, especially while working with vulnerable populations. We have evidence to support that the protocols were not followed due to financial considerations of accepting this patient from New York," Gascón alleged.

Ringo tested positive for COVID-19 six days after the new resident's arrival and died less than a month later, with 13 of the facility's residents dying and more than 100 other residents and staff members being diagnosed with COVID-19 as a result of the outbreak, according to the district attorney.

The other people who died were identified as Elizabeth Cohen, Joseph Manduke, Catherine Apothaker, Jake Khorsandi, Albert Sarnoff, Dolores Sarnoff, Myrna Frank, Frank Piumetti, Jay Tedeman, Luba Paz, Kaye Kiddoo, Richard Herman and Michael Horn.

"We do not have to prove that COVID was brought in by this particular patient," said Marc Beaart, the DA's director of fraud and corruption prosecutions. "We simply have to show there was a positive test and that the protocols were not followed."

Jeff Frum, senior vice president of sales & marketing for Silverado, said in a statement last month that the company "denies all charges filed against us -- they are baseless and egregiously contradict the facts. We look forward to presenting our case during the legal process.

"We will always grieve the loss of the residents to the pandemic and the frontline hero who cared for them," Frum said. "We have taken the pandemic extremely seriously since the start. We recognized COVID-19's unprecedented threat to society, particularly for people living with dementia and their caregivers. Silverado was a leader in developing protocols for people living with dementia and many of these same protocols became standards for the entire memory care industry."