By Michael Rheinheimer
A central Indiana woman is suing Carmel Senior Living for abuse her elderly mother allegedly suffered at the hands of an employee who pleaded guilty to murder in 1987.
The woman, identified as Jane Doe I in the complaint, alleges that her mother, identified as Jane Doe II, was sexually abused by Michael Damon Sullivan.
Doe II reported the abuse to her counselor, and the counselor reported the abuse to the authorities, including the Indiana Dept. of Health. According to the DOH report, Doe II told a family member about what happened. On Aug. 10, 2018, she was interviewed by a detective.
He was employed as a member of the kitchen staff at the time the abuse is alleged to have occurred. According to records obtained by prosecutors, Sullivan applied to Carmel Senior Living in May 2016 and was hired that June.
Attorney Ashley Hadler is handling the suit on behalf of the family. She said criminal charges have not yet been brought against Sullivan.
“There is a pending investigation (being) handled by detectives in Hamilton County,” Hadler said. “They have been testing clothing and bedding for DNA. No charges have been filed yet.”
According to the complaint, Carmel Senior Living and its parent company, Spectrum Retirement Communities, LLC, put its residents at risk by hiring Sullivan and is therefore liable for damages.
The complaint reads, “At all times relevant to this Complaint, the Defendants, CSL and Spectrum … were required to have in effect appropriate safeguards related to their employee hiring and retention practices to provide Jane with supervision and assistance and to ensure that Jane was not sexually abused.”
The complaint alleges that the abuse occurred on or before Aug. 7, 2018, and resulted in “severe physical, emotional and psychological trauma.”
It is not yet known whether the case will go to trial or through arbitration. Hadler is hoping for a trial.
“I’d like to see this proceed to jury,” she said. “This is such an important thing for the people of Hamilton County to know.”
William Swearingen, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Spectrum Retirement Communities, said his company could not comment because of the active civil proceedings. He said his company is taking the allegations seriously and is cooperating with the authorities. He says Spectrum has launched its own internal investigation.
In 1987, Sullivan, now 50, was convicted in the rape and murder of 6-year-old Tamika Larry in Anderson. He was sentenced as a Class A felon after pleading guilty, according to the Anderson Herald Bulletin. In return, the state dismissed the death penalty. Records at the Indiana Dept. of Corrections show his sentence began on March 3, 1987. He was paroled on April 14, 2012, and discharged from parole on April 14, 2013.
Jaime Lira, the director of marketing for the law firm Cohen & Malad urges anyone with additional information or concerns to come forward. The office may be reached at 317-636-6481.
Sullivan’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.