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5 elderly residents left in facility

By CHRIS TISCH and LORRI HELFAND

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 5, 2002


CLEARWATER -- Police were searching Friday for a pair of caretakers who abandoned a group of elderly residents at a locked-up assisted living facility.

CLEARWATER -- Police were searching Friday for a pair of caretakers who abandoned a group of elderly residents at a locked-up assisted living facility.

The caretakers, who are husband and wife, left the five residents at Normandy Manor, 1103 Normandy Road, sometime late Thursday night or early Friday morning.

Police identified the couple, who also lived at the facility, as Pedro Caspe, 45, and Marichu Caspe, 31. They both face five felony charges of elderly abuse or neglect, police said.

"It appears they moved out for good," police Sgt. Doug Griffith said.

The elderly residents, four women and one man who range in age from 71 to 93, were confined to the home, which had been locked from the outside. If a fire had broken out, there would have been no way for them to escape.

"They were locked inside the structure," said Clearwater fire Lt. Patrick Shepler. "They were left in a dangerous situation."

Police said the Caspes are from the Philippines and had expired visas. Police did not know, however, why the couple fled the home or where they might be headed.

The elderly residents went without breakfast or their morning medications after the Caspes disappeared. One of the residents finally decided to call 911 around 11:45 a.m.

Clearwater rescue crews headed to the facility, which looks from the outside like a single-family home. They checked the residents for more than an hour before deciding that none of them had to be transported to a hospital. Officials said the residents were startled but otherwise okay.

"They're relatively fit," Shepler said. "A couple of them were a little nervous."

Inside the house, most of the elderly residents seemed confused while rescue workers filled out paperwork and assessed their conditions.

The man was sitting down, staring somberly into space. One woman was walking around the house talking about ex-husbands, sipping a glass of water and nibbling on white bread. The inside of the home was neat and orderly, and the residents will remain at the facility.

The owners of the facility, Adelbert and Novie Beldia, were summoned to the home. They seemed shaken by the situation.

Adelbert Beldia said the Caspes had worked for him about six months. They had done nothing like this before, he said. He declined to comment further.

There have been no complaints against the facility in the past three years, said Bruce Middlebrooks, a spokesman for the state Agency for Health Care Administration.

However, he said, his agency is investigating the incident and probably will be joined in the inquiry by the Department of Children and Families.

Officials said one of the residents was confined to her bed while another uses a wheelchair. The 3,000-square-foot facility is licensed to care for up to nine patients, Middlebrooks said.

- Chris Tisch can be reached at 445-4156 or tisch@sptimes.com.

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