DHEC investigating after woman walks out of facility, found dead

DHEC investigating after woman walks out of assisted living facility, found dead

JAMES ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - Officials with the Department of Health and Environmental Control say they are investigating after Charleston police say an elderly woman was found dead after she was able to walk out the front door of her assisted living facility.

Marie Duddy, 80, was last seen at Savannah Place on Secessionville Road Friday afternoon.

Her body was found in a marsh Saturday night behind a home on Crab Walk.

"I sympathize with their situation and it's horrible, no matter how it happened and where it happened," Crab Walk resident Micah Utt said. "It's horrible and we're all sad."

Authorities say Duddy suffered from "severe dementia."

According to an incident report from Charleston Police, earlier in the day Friday, Duddy appeared to have an unusually altered mental state.

The report states on Friday afternoon Duddy allegedly was carrying a picture of her granddaughters while walking through the facility.

Employees said the picture was located by the exterior front door, suggesting Duddy was able exit the controlled access area.

An immediate search turned up no results and 911 was called.

Employees told police the woman had attempted to escape the facility in the past, but was never able to make her way off the premises.

After her disappearance, police put out an automated emergency notification call to the neighborhoods near Savannah Place.

Duddy's cause of death has not been released.

Savannah Place officials issued a statement Monday morning.

"We were distressed to learn about the discovery of our resident's body late last night. This is a very difficult time for all of us at the community. We want to express our deepest sympathies to the family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. We continue to cooperate with authorities on this matter and are continuing our own investigation into this."

According to DHEC, the most recent complaint about Savannah Place was in March 2016, and the allegations involved the facility being under-staffed, lacking mealtime supervision, and a resident injuring another resident.

"DHEC conducted a complaint investigation and cited the facility for being under-staffed and missing documentation," DHEC officials said."The facility sent us a plan of correction for these citations and DHEC accepted their plan."

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