Both sides agree that Silvia Cata’s “Super Home Care” facility in Sacramento was “neat and clean,” and that 88-year-old Georgia Holzmeister seemed content to live there.
And that’s where the agreement pretty much ends.
On Tuesday – 16 months after the death of Holzmeister, who was hospitalized in June 2012 with gaping bedsores – Cata was ordered to stand trial in a unique criminal case being pursued by California’s attorney general.
Following a three-hour preliminary hearing, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Ernest W. Sawtelle found sufficient evidence that Cata be tried on felony charges of elder abuse and involuntary manslaughter.
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The manslaughter charge is believed to be a first for state prosecutors in an elder-abuse case, filed by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse. In addition to the felony counts, the case against Cata moves forward with two special allegations that the elderly victim suffered great bodily injury, and that neglect and abuse caused her death.
Since Cata’s arrest in February, friends and family members of the caregiver, who is of Romanian heritage, have attended the proceedings – sometimes packing the courtroom.
Cata’s defense attorney, Linda Parisi, told The Sacramento Bee her client is a “very kind and loving woman” who ran a care home for many years, often taking photographs of parties she held for her elderly residents.
“It’s tragic she (Holzmeister) died, but it was not Mrs. Cata’s fault,” Parisi said after the hearing.
Holzmeister, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, had lived in Cata’s home since 2007, when her family no longer could care for her and got a referral from a longtime friend, said Holzmeister’s granddaughter, Shelly Carlson of Elverta.
Cata was licensed by the State Department of Social Services to house up to six residents in her home in the Gardenland neighborhood of Sacramento. Cata’s “Super Home Care,” which is classified as a Residential Care Facility for the Elderly, or RCFE, was cited at least 40 times since 1996 for violations – including 26 Type A deficiencies, the most serious under state regulations, according to a Bee examination of files from the department’s community care licensing division.
Cata, 53, a petite woman whose blond hair was swept neatly into a pony tail, listened quietly Tuesday as Deputy Attorney General Steven Muni quizzed his lead medical expert about Holzmeister’s pressure sores and subsequent death.
Dr. Kathryn Locatell, who specializes in geriatric medicine, said her examination of the case history revealed that Holzmeister was afflicted with devastating, foul-smelling bed sores that would have taken days or even weeks to develop.