Florida Nurse Charged with Putting Hot Sauce in Mouths of Sleeping Patients

AP Photo/M. Spencer Green
AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

The strange story of Florida nurse Tracie Nellis ended this week with the surrender of her nursing license to avoid disciplinary proceedings after she was charged with pouring hot sauce into the mouths of sleeping dementia patients at the nursing home where she worked.

The Ocala StarBanner reviews the case:

Tracie S. Nellis was a licensed practical nurse working at the Williston Rehabilitation and Nursing Center when the incident happened in March 2013, according to state records.

In the criminal court arena, Nellis was eventually arrested and prosecuted in Levy County, which is where the nursing home is located.

In the professional arena, Nellis pledged to give up her LPN license to avoid disciplinary proceedings. Last week, the state Board of Nursing accepted Nellis’ voluntary relinquishment in lieu of further disciplinary proceedings.

Nellis, now 44, is accused of placing the hot sauce in the residents’ mouths between March 18 and 19, 2013, according to state records.

The state investigated, and Nellis was arrested on Jan. 13, 2014, by the state Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

Also arrested about that same time was Vincent Murano. According to the State Attorney’s Office for Levy County, Murano also was an employee at the nursing home and was accused in the same incident.

Both Nellis and Murano were charged with battery on a person age 65 or older, which is a felony; and misdemeanor battery.

For some reason, the state decided to drop all charges against Murano and eventually dropped the felony batter charge against Nellis, so she ended up with a year of probation, then dropped her nursing license to avoid whatever slowly-gestating disciplinary procedure the Florida Board of Nursing had in mind.  It took about nine months to arrest her, and it was the state Medicaid Fraud Unit that finally took care of business.

That seems like an awfully languid pace for dealing with a case of callously tormenting elderly patients for what was most likely personal amusement — watching a sleeping 65-year-old in the grip of senile dementia thrash around is evidently the conspirators’ idea of fun.  It’s hard to say for certain, because nobody was willing to talk to the Ocala StarBanner about the case — not the nursing home, Nellis, or Murano’s lawyers.  The interlocking gears of bureaucracy turn very slowly.