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Baraboo man charged with negligence in death of father

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A Baraboo man faces 25 years in prison after allegedly neglecting his ill father for months until his death in February 2020.

Paul J. Jorgensen, 53, was charged Monday in Sauk County Circuit Court with negligently subjecting an at-risk individual to abuse and causing death.

According to the criminal complaint, Jorgensen took the man to the SSM Health St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo where he was admitted Feb. 3, 2020. He was transferred to St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison two days later because of the need for a higher level of care. Roughly two weeks later, he was transferred to a Veterans Affairs nursing home and put into hospice care, where he died March 1, 2020.

Doctors told Sauk County Sheriff’s Detective Clay Lins that the man was seen after they found he had a substantial pressure ulcer on his body as well as an untreated skin cancer lesion on his chest and a bacterial infection on his feet.

St. Mary’s officials reported Jorgensen to Adult Protective Services after his father was brought to the hospital. According to the complaint, the 85-year-old man died after the ulcer became infected and the infection spread to his bones.

According to the complaint, the detective spoke to a family member who explained that Jorgensen’s father had heart surgery 20 years ago and that his “mind was starting to slow down” which led to him living in an assisted living facility. After the man was struck by a car, his condition worsened and Jorgensen offered to have his father move in with him roughly 11 years ago. The family member said he felt Jorgensen had done well caring for the man.

When the detective reviewed the power of attorney documents, he found that it did not protect the man but “specifically listed Paul’s rights to do things most POA would prohibit,” including borrowing money in his father’s name, change beneficiaries on his life insurance, use his retirement money as he wanted, use Social Security funds to pay for housing improvements, give his father’s money to whoever he chooses and to open credit accounts in his father’s name.

“Paul quit his job and had been living off” the man’s “money for 11 years, far before” the man had been deemed incompetent by doctors in 2019, according to the complaint.

In speaking with two separate doctors who saw the man after he was brought to each hospital, the detective found that blood tests showed the man was malnourished and had the ulcer “for some time.” One doctor said Jorgensen told him he had tried home remedies, but the sore was unclean.

In medical records reviewed by the detective, a social worker noted that Jorgensen wanted to use his father’s money for himself and not for hospital care, followed by a report that the accounts were frozen and the man would not be allowed to return to Jorgensen’s home. Three separate doctors noted concerns of neglect, according to the complaint. One doctor also said Jorgensen had told him his father was able to move around on his own, but that he didn’t believe him based on his condition and that “when you see someone like this, it didn’t just happen yesterday.”

He added that the man expressed being in severe pain whenever he was being attended to by medical personnel and that Jorgensen had barely spent any time at the hospital despite knowing his father was “gravely ill” before leaving.

The doctor said the biggest health problem was the ulcer that eventually caused the man to become septic and die, which would have occurred due to long stretches of time where the man would have been lying on one specific area.

That meant that he was unable to move himself and that Jorgensen likely hadn’t helped to reposition him for a “very long time,” said another doctor who treated the man and had told a social worker that it seemed “like someone was not taking care of him.” That doctor said based on the size of the ulcer, the man would have had to have been left in the same position for weeks.

Jorgensen is scheduled to make an initial appearance Nov. 17 in court.

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.

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