Assisted living community under investigation after resident wanders, is found dead

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Marie Duddy
Marie Duddy

A Charleston, SC, assisted living community is under investigation by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control after a resident with dementia wandered away from the community and later was found dead.

The body of Marie Duddy, 80, was discovered on the evening of May 21 in a marshy area behind a nearby home by the home's owner, who called authorities, the Charleston Police Department reported on its Facebook page. The last time Duddy had been seen, according to the department, had been the previous afternoon at Savannah Place, the assisted living community where she lived.

When employees later found a photograph that she had been carrying outside the front door of the community, they began a search and then called 911. Employees told police that Duddy had tried to leave the community before but that previous attempts had been unsuccessful. Duddy had “severe dementia,” police said.

Savannah Place, operated by Enlivant, is licensed for 44 beds, according to the DHEC. In a statement provided to McKnight's Senior Living, Enlivant representatives said: “This is a very difficult time for our community, as we are devastated about the death of our resident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family. We continue to cooperate with authorities on this matter and are continuing our own investigation into this incident.”

A DHEC spokesman told McKnight's Senior Living that the most recent complaint filed against Savannah Place, in March, alleged understaffing, a lack of supervision at mealtimes and that a resident had injured another resident. The DHEC subsequently investigated and cited the community for being understaffed and missing documentation, the spokesman said, adding that Savannah Place submitted a plan of correction that was accepted by the department. The investigation related to Duddy is ongoing, he said.

Personnel from the local police and fire departments, the county sheriff's office and emergency medical services, five other fire departments, the Coast Guard, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the American Red Cross and the Community Emergency Response Team had participated in search efforts for Duddy that lasted more than 20 hours and covered the ground, air and water, according to the Charleston Police Department.

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