DEC 05, 2022

Attorney General Alan Wilson announces arrest of two Upstate nurses on charges of neglecting nursing home patients

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) – South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced that his office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (SCMFCU) has arrested Alyssa Paige Morris, 22 years old, of Cowpens, SC, and Heather Star Gowan, 44 years old, of Gaffney, SC, each on two charges of Neglect of a Vulnerable Adult {43-35-0085(C)}. Morris and Gowan were both booked into the Spartanburg County Detention Center on December 5, 2022.

A joint investigation by the Spartanburg Police Department and the SCMFCU revealed that between September 9, 2022, and September 11, 2022, while employed as Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) at a skilled nursing facility in Spartanburg, both Morris and Gowan are alleged to have knowingly and willfully failed to provide the care necessary to maintain the health and safety of two Magnolia Manor residents. Specifically, the SCMFCU charges that both defendants intentionally failed to change the victims’ wound dressings, causing their wounds to increase in size, resulting in both victims suffering unnecessary harm and risk to their physical health. During the time of the alleged misconduct, the victims were classified as vulnerable adults under South Carolina law based upon their residence in a residential or skilled nursing facility.

This incident was reported to law enforcement by Magnolia Manor, who cooperated fully with investigators. Morris and Gowan will be prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office.

Neglect of a Vulnerable Adult is a felony and, upon conviction, has a penalty of up to five years in prison.

Pursuant to federal regulations, the SCMFCU has authority over Medicaid provider fraud; abuse and neglect of Medicaid beneficiaries in any setting; and the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of individuals residing in assisted living facilities or nursing homes. 

Attorney General Wilson stressed all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty in a court of law.

The SCMFCU receives 75 percent of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a grant award totaling $2,318,568 for federal fiscal year 2023. The remaining 25 percent, totaling $772,852 for FFY 2023, is funded by South Carolina.

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