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Nursing aide arrested, charged for 2018 death of escaped patient

Posted at 3:42 PM, Mar 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-02 15:42:22-05

CANTON, Ohio — A nursing aide has been arrested and charged in the 2018 case of a patient with dementia who escaped a Canton nursing home and died from exposure.

Dewarn Bell, 53, was working at the Glenwood Care and Rehabilitation Center in April 2018 when 56-year-old patient Mark Billiter escaped the facility on 34th Street NW around 7 p.m. on Sunday, April 15.

Just a few hours after Billiter escaped, a police officer spotted him walking along a busy road and gave him a ride, but the officer didn't have a reason to hold him because Billiter hadn't been reported missing by the facility.

At around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, police were called to U.S. 62 where Billiter was walking. It was a safety concern partly because he was wearing dark clothing in heavily traveled highway area.

Body camera video captured the interaction between the officer and Billiter.

"You can't walk on the highway anyway," the officer said.

The officer offered to give him a ride within the city and asked him his name, but Billiter repeatedly asked to be taken to a relative's home in Alliance.

"Can you take me to Alliance?" Billiter asked.

"I can't take you to Alliance. I've done told you that three times. I can't take you to Alliance," the officer responded.

After Billiter gave an address on Mahoning Avenue in Alliance, the officer took him to the city limits, explaining he couldn't drive him beyond that point.

"Alright man. I'm gonna let you out here," the officer said. "We're at the city limits."

Billiter can be heard thanking the officer, but apparently, he was still about 12 miles away from the address he gave. The nursing home did not report Billiter missing to his family until 7 a.m. Monday.

Two days after he escaped, Billiter's body was found near a gas station in Nimishillen Township. Investigators believe he may have died from exposure to the cold.

Although details of the exact role Bell held in Bellinger's escape and death have not been provided, court records indicate she was charged with reckless homicide and gross patient neglect. She was arrested last Thursday and her arraignment is set for this Friday.

Shortly after his death, Billiter’s family sued the nursing home for negligence over the incident.

RELATED: Attorney says death of man who escaped Canton nursing home should have been prevented