Anonymous letter tips Valley family to potentially deadly trouble at retirement home

FRESNO, CA -- An anonymous letter tipped off a Valley family about trouble at a retirement home they believe led to their mother's unexpected death.

"It was quite a shock to open that letter," said Terry Anderson. "You know, that really floored me."

The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Palm Village Retirement Center in Reedley, based on the information contained in that letter.

Harriet Randel was 93-years-old when she died last November, and her family thought it was just old age that got her. But on the same day of her memorial, her son got that letter in the mail that changed everything.

Harriet lived long enough to raise four kids, enjoy grandkids and a great-grandkid. And she spread a lot of love along the way.

"(She was a) great mother, great grandmother," said Terry Anderson. "You know, everybody loved Mom."

Raised in Minnesota, she spent most of her years in the Central Valley and finished them off at Palm Village Retirement Center in Reedley. Skip-Bo, Bingo and talking on the phone kept her busy right up to the end, which came unexpectedly the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Her son Mike got to her side just in time to say goodbye.

"I went to the hospital and caught her in ICU," he said. "I didn't really speak with her, but she knew I was there."

A week later, on the same day the family buried Harriet, a letter arrived in the mail. Signed "someone who cares", it flipped everything the family thought they knew about her death upside-down.

"This was the day we put mom to rest and we were all good with it and then I opened this letter and it was kind of like a slap in the face that this had happened," said Terry Anderson. "It was pretty shocking."

The anonymous letter outlined at least two instances in the night when Harriet complained of illness, and at least two instances of the night nurse refusing to assess her, even scolding staff members for bothering her with the information. Four hours later, the note said a new nurse reported for duty and found Harriet unresponsive. She never recovered.

Palm Village CEO David Reimer told me he couldn't get into specifics of the case, but he said, "We are concerned when we hear stories like this one and we investigate them and cooperate with any investigations."

ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi says these are the types of accusations that could lead to big penalties, and state investigators could even suspend a nurse's license.

"This should be investigated and looked into very carefully because this should not be allowed to happen ever again," Capozzi said.

So far, the family hasn't filed a complaint with the state nursing board, but an Action News reporter asked them what justice would look like in this case.

They said they just want to protect anyone else in Harriet's position, and added that the nurse shouldn't be taking care of elderly people.

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