SANDUSKY — Determining how many nursing home patients may have been abused by a former nightshift nurse is proving to be a challenge for prosecutors.
That’s because many of the people who authorities think were victims are unable to talk with them. “That’s a problem,” Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter said today.
A county grand jury on Monday indicted John Riems on charges of rape, sexual battery and patient abuse.
Riems, 49, is accused of sexually abusing a 55-year-old man and another man in his 80s, Baxter said.
Riems told investigators after his arrest last month that he abused almost 100 patients since the 1980s, but he could remember specific information on only about two dozen, police said.
Baxter said his office is trying to verify what it can. “You always want to corroborate even though you have a confession,” he said.
So far, police investigators say they have found that Riems abused 14 patients and they are looking into 10 other suspected assaults.
Investigators say it will be hard to find all the possible victims. Among the obstacles they face are that many of the patients the man claims to have assaulted are unable to speak. Some are dead.
And some of the cases go back two decades.
Riems pleaded not guilty to an earlier charge of rape on Jan. 31. He remains in jail in this Lake Erie city about midway between Toledo and Cleveland.
He will be arraigned on the new charges in county court.
A message seeking comment was left with his attorney, Troy Wisehart, on Tuesday. Wisehart has said in the past that he hopes the public doesn’t jump to conclusions.
Riems told police the pattern of abuse began shortly after his career began in 1985, authorities said. He has worked at 13 hospitals and nursing homes, all but one in northern Ohio.
He worked at care centers in Toledo, Elyria and Huron. He also worked at a hospital in Fremont. Several of his stops were for just a few months.
A former co-worker said some patients refused to take their medications to avoid being alone with Riems and that he often remained in a room alone with patients for up to an hour. Another nurse said Riems had a temper and that patients complained about him.