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A Windsor Township woman has pleaded guilty to neglecting her duty to care for the ailing mother of recent gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner. At the time, Anne Wagner was in a rehabilitation facility.

Mary Ella Torbert, 63, of Crescent Road, appeared in York County Court on Wednesday, Dec. 5, and pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charges against her — neglect of a care-dependent person and reckless endangerment.

"She's terribly sorry for what happened here," defense attorney Sean Quinlan told the York Dispatch after the hearing. "She couldn't feel worse about (it)."

Chris Jason, a deputy prosecutor with the state Attorney General's Office, told presiding Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook that victim Anne Wagner's family was in agreement with allowing Torbert to plead guilty and to be charged with misdemeanors rather than felonies.

Jason noted that Torbert appeared to be quite remorseful.

Torbert had never been in trouble before, her attorney said.

"She doesn't make any excuse for what happened," Quinlan told Cook. "She understands what she did was wrong."

Open plea: It was an open plea, meaning it was up to Cook to determine Torbert's punishment. Both Quinlan and Jason requested a probationary sentence.

Torbert told the judge she was watching Anne Wagner because it was feared the patient could fall out of bed and injure herself.

"I left the room for a couple minutes, came back and she was lying on the floor," Torbert said, adding she was out of the room for seven or eight minutes.

Court documents state Anne Wagner suffered a head injury, a broken hip and a broken thumb when she fell out of bed.

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Cook sentenced Torbert to a total of two years' probation and ordered her to pay court costs.

Scott Wagner, who ran for state governor on the Republican ticket and who served York County as a state senator until stepping down for his gubernatorial campaign last spring, told The York Dispatch his mother suffered a stroke about a year ago that for a time required she be in a local care facility.

Back home: Anne Wagner, now 85, has returned to her York County home with husband Jack, according to her son.

"They're both at home now, and that's where they want to be," Scott Wagner said. "They're stubborn — they grew up on a farm."

He said his mother has been an active person throughout her life.

"Every day she was taking care of the horses in the barn ... 20 to 25 horses at one time," he said. "Or she was in the garden or in the yard."

Anne Wagner gave horseback-riding lessons for 50 years, according to her son.

The former senator said his family didn't report the incident to authorities.

An agent with the Medicaid Fraud Control Section of the AG's office investigated the case after receiving a referral from the state Department of Aging, documents state. The York County District Attorney's Office wasn't involved.

The background: Torbert at the time worked as a home-care associate for Country Meadows at Home in Hershey, officials said.

She was among the caregivers tasked with providing 24-hour direct supervision to Anne Wagner at Country Meadows of York/South, 2670 Pine Grove Road in York Township, documents state.

Torbert was supposed to be watching Anne Wagner on April 1 but left the woman's room to do laundry about 9 p.m., court documents state. When she returned, the patient was on the floor.

Torbert later told investigators that she was supposed to watch the patient at all times and have someone replace her if she needed to leave the room, according to court documents.

The extent of Anne Wagner's injuries became known after a different caregiver noticed the patient had symptoms indicating an altered mental state, documents state.

'Not an easy job': Scott Wagner said having his mother in a care facility for a time made him aware of just how difficult a caregiver's job can be.

"I have empathy for the people who do these jobs," he said. "It's not an easy job. ... Some of these caregivers work 10-, 12-hour shifts."

The former senator, who owns Penn Waste, said that until it was his own mother who was affected, he didn't have a full appreciation what caregivers go through daily — moving patients, bathing them, feeding them and caring for all their personal needs.

"It's an eye-opening experience," he said.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

 

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