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KDKA Investigates: Home Health Aid With Criminal Past Raises Questions, Concerns

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Tibor Egetoe was a lively, independent husband and father, but when he was struck with both Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's, his wife, Margaret, could not feed, bath and take care of him alone.

"I could not do it myself. I just simply could not," said Margaret Egetoe, of New Castle.

She qualified under a state-administered Medicaid program for that help, but when an assigned caregiver named Jada Strayhorn arrived, she could assist with none of those things. Instead, the family said she complained about a lack of a Wi-Fi in the house.

"She was more interested in what was happening on her phone and not having Internet connection," said Margaret.

When Strayhorn did not show up a second time, Margaret Googled her name and found out something even more alarming.

Strayhorn and a man named Rodney Johnson had been arrested in a July raid on a home in Wilkinsburg. Detectives confiscated 301 stamp bags of heroin and cocaine, as well as scales, grinders and measuring spoons.

"Alarmed that she was in my house," Margaret said.

Not only does Strayhorn have those pending charges, a quick check of court records shows she has a long criminal history of convictions for forgery and passing bad checks. She also has a felony conviction for possession with intent to deliver drugs in 2012.

"I was enraged," said Christine Egetoe, the couple's daughter. "I couldn't believe that someone like that was sent to care for my mom and my dad and sent into my parents' home."

Until last year the drug offense alone that would have prohibited Strayhorn from practicing as a health aid in Pennsylvania, but the state Supreme Court has ruled that lifetime bans for health care workers are unconstitutional.

The state Department of Human Services, which administers the program, says there is no policy preventing agencies from hiring someone with any kind of criminal history. Christina says that puts a vulnerable population at risk.

"If it happened to my mother, how many other homes has this person or other people who have similar backgrounds gone into," said Christina. "I'm just concerned for other people."

KDKA's Andy Sheehan found out that it's up to the home care providers to establish their own hiring policies.

But when KDKA went to the agency that employed Strayhorn, Dedicated Nursing Associates in Murrysville, we got few answers. They merely issued a statement saying that Strayhorn was "fully credentialed and trained" and that "prior to their hiring, all employees undergo background checks and drug screens."

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Through independent channels, KDKA was able to determine that Strayhorn had been recently hired by Dedicated Nurses as a provisional employee and that she began seeing clients prior to the results of her background check.

While that is permissible under state law, it is unacceptable to Margaret who says she learned as much as she needed to know after typing Stayhorn's name into a search engine.

"The agency who sent her to me should have known that this was her background and if they didn't have a completed background check yet, she shouldn't have been allowed to work."

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