ashland.news
July 18, 2024

Former Asante nurse arrested in alleged drug-diversion case

Jackson County Chief Deputy District Attorney Patrick Green, right, answers questions Thursday at the Medford Police Department during a news conference after the arrest and indictment of former Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center nurse Dani Marie Schofield. Medford Police Chief Justin Ivens is at left. Rogue Valley Times photo by Jamie Lusch
June 14, 2024

Dani Marie Schofield, 36, faces 44 felony counts of second-degree assault after allegedly replacing patients’ IV-administered painkiller with tap water

By Buffy Pollock, Rogue Valley Times

Medford police announced Thursday they arrested Dani Marie Schofield, 36, the former nurse at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center at the center of a sprawling drug-diversion case involving alleged harm to dozens of patients.

Police announced they arrested Schofield at about 12:30 p.m. Thursday in the 5000 block of Rogue River Drive in Eagle Point. She is lodged in the Jackson County Jail and is scheduled to be arraigned Friday, according to the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office.

Schofield, who was indicted by a grand jury Wednesday, faces 44 felony counts of second-degree assault under Measure 11, according to a news release from the Medford Police Department.

She is believed to have committed the alleged assaults between July 25, 2022, and July 25, 2023, the release said.

Court documents show Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Laura Cromwell set bail at $4.4 million.

Schofield’s arrest is a major development in an investigation that began in December 2023 when Asante officials reached out to the police department.

In a memo to Asante employees obtained by the Rogue Valley Times, hospital President and CEO Tom Gessel said: “We have received word from law enforcement about the indictment and arrest of a former Rogue Regional Medical Center employee. As the Medford Police Department said in their statement, this individual has been arrested on 44 charges of Assault 2, a serious felony charge, for theft of fentanyl and the placement of tap water in patient IV bags.

“We thank our law enforcement partners, including the Medford Police Department, for their tireless work since our team brought concerns forward to them,” Gessel continued. “We are greatly appreciative of the countless hours their investigators have spent on this complex matter.”

He thanked employees for their “continued work on behalf of our community.”

Medford police handed the results of the seven-month investigation over to the district attorney’s office in late April. Chief Deputy DA Patrick Green called it the “biggest case” ever handled by the DA’s office. Green was elected in the May primary to succeed Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert, who is retiring.

The release on Thursday said Asante was alerted to the situation with Schofield after the hospital became “concerned with a rising number of central line infection cases in patients while in their care.” After the hospital conducted an internal investigation, which involved consulting with outside medical experts, “Asante provided MPD with information that all of the identified cases were isolated to patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and occurred within a specific date range,” the release said.

“MPD Investigators made contact with Schofield early on in this investigation. Investigators also spent months (poring) through volumes of hospital records and interviewed nearly 100 people in this case to include doctors, nurses, patients and many of those affected,” the release said. “Due to the magnitude of the case and its impact on victims, MPD dedicated multiple full-time detectives to the investigation.”

At a midafternoon press conference Thursday with Medford police officials and the DA’s office, police Chief Justin Ivens said, “Our thoughts are with the victims, their families and all those who have been impacted by this investigation. My hope is today’s arrest brings just a little bit of closure in what they have suffered and gone through.

“Second,” the chief continued, “I want to commend and thank the investigators, our support staff, our supervisors who worked tirelessly on this complex investigation.”

Asante, he said, had been “a good community partner throughout this investigation,” and that the hospital’s assistance in the case was “a big reason that we’re at this stage in the criminal process.”

Ivens said that several of the victims identified through the investigation had died. However, a review of those cases by medical experts and medical examiners determined that “the infections these patients suffered from could not be determined to be the cause of death,” only that Schofield’s actions, specifically, had “caused physical injury to patients who were under her control and care,” Ivens said.

At the press conference, Chief Deputy DA Green said that testimony and evidence from 21 witnesses had been presented before the grand jury, which convened for eight hours, and that the charges against Schofield “represent the highest level of charge the evidence in this case can support.”

“In a prosecution for any degree of homicide, whether it be murder, manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, the state, the prosecution, is required to prove that the actions of the person charged were the cause of the death of the victim,” Green said.

“Investigators in this case consulted with numerous medical experts, who were all unanimous that they could not conclude that any of the patients’ deaths were directly attributed the infections, and that’s why you do not see any of those charges.”

The bail amount, Green said, was “representative of the number of charges in this case,” each of which carries a mandatory five years and 10 months in prison.

Under Oregon law, a person commits second-degree assault, a class B felony, if he or she:

(a) “Intentionally or knowingly causes serious physical injury to another;

(b) “Intentionally or knowingly causes physical injury to another by means of a deadly or dangerous weapon; or

(c) “Recklessly causes serious physical injury to another by means of a deadly or dangerous weapon under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.”

Police declined to comment on whether Schofield had stolen the fentanyl for personal use or to sell it.

“I’m not going to get into her personal life, but obviously, you know, I don’t believe that Ms. Schofield probably went into the medical field initially, to do this by any means,” Ivens said. “So, you know, make your own conclusions based on that. I think, at some point in her job, she lost purpose in what she was doing, and (it) led to this, which is truly tragic.”

While neither Asante officials nor Medford police had publicly named her before Thursday, Schofield, who lives in Medford, was first identified in a civil suit filed Feb. 26 by Idiart Law Group in Central Point on behalf of the estate of 65-year-old Horace “Buddy” Wilson.

Wilson died Feb. 25, 2022 — before the one-year time frame of the charges — after Schofield allegedly swapped prescription fentanyl with non-sterile tap water administered through Wilson’s bloodstream via his central line, according to court documents.

Schofield’s RN license was suspended in November and expired in April. Before Idiart filed its case, the Rogue Valley Times interviewed several families who said they were contacted by Asante officials in December and were told that their loved ones became ill, or died, after a hospital nurse replaced patients’ pain medication with tap water.

One of the victims named in the circuit court filing, posted Thursday, is 71-year-old Klamath Falls resident Roberta Porter. Earlier this year, the Times interviewed her son, Shawn Porter, of Phoenix, Arizona. He learned Dec. 23 that his mother’s death from a serious infection was connected to drug diversion by a hospital nurse.

He said his mother had been laid to rest a full year before police contacted him. After learning of Schofield’s arrest, Shawn Porter told the Times he had been frustrated with how long it took.

“That’s the thing that’s been bothering me for a while now, knowing she was free,” he said, adding, “There’s at least a sigh of relief tied to her being arrested.”

Porter felt the charges should have been “more serious,” though “the charges line up with what detectives told me a few months ago,” he said.

“I wasn’t happy about it then, and I’m not happy about it now.” He said a detective told him, “it was like stabbing somebody with a knife … My thought was: If you stab 44 people with a knife and they all die, that’s not assault II.”

Shawn Porter said he would follow Schofield’s trial — hopeful, but skeptical, that the former nurse would face more serious charges.

“I’m not thrilled with the charge level,” he said, “but if you get enough of them — even assault, 40 times — hopefully she’s going to be doing some serious time. … This was the first big domino that’s been waiting to fall for a long while now.”

In addition to Roberta Porter, the victims in the court filing, posted Thursday, are: Seth Pine, Duane Goodman, Alice Johnson, Mark Caldwell, Patrick Lewallen, Gary Marshall, Andrew Amaya, Donald Patterson, Joy Manzo, Samuel Allison, Michelle Wood, Kermit Miranda, Michael Read, Douglas Young, Lucien Allen, Marty Bolin, Zachariah Roberts, Justine Siemens, Kerrie Danielson, Jon Meade, Candi Palomares, Herman Sheperd, Rebecca Olson, James Geear, Allan Kissee, Jeffrey Isenhart, Kelly Moore, Amanda Carvin-Pitluck, Robin Bartlett, Rebecca Rogers, Maureen Schroeder, Jared Phipps, Bronson Pickett, Jeffery Morton, Devin Kent, Royce Mayo, Daniel Clark, Ronald Sizemore, Lindsey Moyer, Thomas Weasel, Linda Becker, Barry Samsten and Marlene Murphy.

Reach reporter Buffy Pollock at 458-488-2029 or bpollock@rv-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

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Cameron Aalto

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