MARTINEZ, Calif. (KRON) — A worker at an assisted living facility faced a judge Monday in connection to the death of a 94-year-old resident.
Atria Walnut Creek employee Lateshia Starling, 54, faces one count of elder abuse for the death of Constantine Canoun. The 94-year-old Atria resident died in August after he drank cleaning solution and the district attorney said Starling was the one who placed the resident in harm’s way.
Only a few comments were made by Starling inside the Contra Costa County Superior Court Monday. The judge approved Starling’s request for her arraignment to be pushed back one week in order to give her time to hire a private attorney.
“She’s a victim as well and we feel terribly that she’s sitting in detention right now,” said Kathryn Stebner, elder abuse attorney. Stebner represents the family of Constantine Canoun.
The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office claims Starling willfully placed Canoun in danger while she was working at Atria’s Walnut Creek facility. Stebner said Starling is not to blame and that the finger should be pointed at Atria and their parent company.
“They pay their workers very little. They’re the ones with the procedures. They’re the ones who aren’t locking up the materials,” said Stebner.
Canoun was not the only resident to die from cleaning solution. Two others, Gertrude Maxwell and Peter Schroder, died at Atria’s San Mateo facility after drinking cleaning products.
“Obviously this happened in two different places, and this is a systemic problem,” said Stebner.
Dr. Cary Canoun, Canoun’s son, told KRON4 last year that it was Atria’s management who claimed his father died after eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
Dr. Canoun did not want to be interviewed Monday but did tell KRON4 over the phone that he feels bad for Starling and that she was one of the workers who was honest with his family about the cleaning solution.
KRON On is streaming news live now
“Atria made a really big mistake lying to the family in lying to the family about this Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Even if they thought it was at the beginning they should have retracted it immediately because it was so ridiculous,” said Stebner.
Atria Assisted Living issued the following statement to KRON4:
“We are aware of the criminal complaint against our former employee and will continue to work with the authorities. This incident has been a tragedy. Our deepest sympathies remain with the resident’s family and all other families and staff affected.”
Stebner said the Canoun family plans on taking Atria to trial, but that a court date has not been scheduled.