A former physician assistant at the Claremore Veterans Center pleaded not guilty Monday to neglect-related deaths of two elderly patients.
Kenneth Adams, 60, of Fort Gibson, was formally arraigned in Rogers County District Court one week after the unsealing of an Oklahoma multicounty grand jury indictment that accuses Adams of two felony counts of second-degree murder — or the alternative charge of second-degree manslaughter — and neglect by a caretaker.
Adams also was indicted on a misdemeanor count of failing to initiate an investigation into the victims’ deaths.
Special Judge Terrell Crossen scheduled a July 17 hearing when a date for a preliminary hearing on the accusations will be set, said Adams’ defense attorney, Trevor Reynolds of Tulsa. Reynolds said Adams remains free after posting a $100,000 bond.
Prosecutors accuse Adams of neglect and abuse that led to the deaths last year of two patients who were in their 80s. But Reynolds, who has said he was surprised his client was indicted for murder in the case, said he believes his client is innocent of the accusations.
“Obviously, Mr. Adams and I both don’t feel that the government is going to be able to prove its case,” Reynolds said. “We’re going to defend his name as vigorously as we can.”
Reynolds said there is a big legal difference between a grand jury indictment and a jury trial where the allegations must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. At Adams’ preliminary hearing, prosecutors will be required to show that a crime was committed and that there is probable cause that Adams’ was responsible.
“I just don’t see how the state is going to be able to prove that he is guilty of any of these issues,” Reynolds said. The indictment accuses Adams of committing caretaker neglect in March 2012 that led to the death of Louis Arterberry, 86, who the indictment says was “a vulnerable adult” Adams was assigned to care for.
It accuses Adams of neglecting his duties by ignoring signs that Arterberry was suffering a stroke while Adams was “engaged in communications with another person in an effort to arrange a sexual liaison.”
The indictment also accuses Adams of committing caretaker abuse in May 2012 that led to the death of Peter “Jay” Minter, 85, after Minter suffered burns over more than 50 percent of his body.
It says Adams knew the severity of the burns but allowed Minter “to languish without proper care until he succumbed to death.”
A final accusation alleges Adams provided “false and misleading information” to the Medical Examiner’s Office, resulting in the office not performing an investigation into the manner and cause of Minter’s death.
Adams faces possible penalties of up to life in prison if found guilty of the murder counts.