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CBS4 Exclusive: Nurse Accused Of Neglect

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South Florida Crime

PEMBROKE PINES (CBSMiami) – A mental health technician is facing elderly neglect charges after Pembroke Pines Police say she disobeyed a supervisor’s order and closed a mentally ill man in a room by himself and refused to help him when he tried to get out.

Debra Judge-Thomas was charged last week with the crime that police say occurred at the South Florida State Hospital in Pembroke Pines.

According to the police report: On December 2, 2013, Judge-Thomas was providing one-on-one care to Morris Celnikier, 62. Judge-Thomas told her supervisor that Celnikier, who suffered from schizophrenia, was hitting her and that Celnikier agreed to go in a “Comfort Room” to calm down. However police say Judge-Thomas grabbed Celnikier forcefully by his collar and put him in the room, closed the door against the supervisor’s orders and shut off the lights.

The report says Celnikier then “started pounding on the door attempting to get out but Judge-Thomas who was sitting outside by the door did not take any action to let him out.” The report says Celnikier soiled himself and fell off a bed several times hitting his head and back on concrete causing broken ribs a fractured back and numerous bruises that his sister, Vivian Celnikier-Mechabar, remembers seeing.

“Bruises all over like somebody beat him with a boot or a fist,” she told CBS 4’s Carey Codd.

Police say Celnikier spent 46 minutes alone in the room before another mental health technician removed him. Celnikier-Mechabar is angry at Debra Judge-Thomas.

“She has no feeling for humankind,” she said. “No feeling at all. And how dare to her to do that to my brother because she caused this whole thing.”

After he left the South Florida State Hospital, Morris Celnikier stayed in several hospitals and nursing homes to recuperate from his serious injuries, including injuries to his back that his sister said could have left him a paraplegic. He died from choking last month, she said.

Vivian Mechabar is considering legal action against the South Florida State Hospital. She says she entrusted her brother’s care to the people at the South Florida State hospital and they failed her.

“If they would have taken the care of him that they were supposed to have given to him, it wouldn’t have come to this,” she said.

Her attorney, Paul Layne, says they are investigating the incident.

“Morris should be here today,” he said. “This should have never happened. The individual who’s charged and possibly others are the ones that the family of Morris Celnikier were relying on for his safety, his protection and his well-being.”

Judge-Thomas told CBS 4 News that she did not neglect Morris Celnikier and that she “did what the nurse told her to do.” She said she is the “fall guy” and was fired from the hospital after the incident.

Celnikier-Mechabar says she placed her brother in the South Florida State Hospital on the recommendation of a doctor. She hopes others can learn from her experience.

“They have to be more careful with where they place their loved ones,” she said. “They shouldn’t be so naive that I was, so trusting.”

The police report says several co-workers of Debra Judge-Thomas told detectives that she was violated the rules of the hospital with her treatment of Morris Celnikier.

CBS 4 News reached out to the South Florida State Hospital for comment. They referred us to the owners of the facility — Geo Care.
We called them multiple times today and they were unable to put us in touch with someone who could answer our questions.

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