CHANDLER, Arizona - Filipino couple Joseph and Lolita Somera were arrested on August 15 for allegedly causing the death of 69-year old Jon Rager who was under their care at Happy Homes Assisted Living in Chandler, Arizona.
The suspects, both 56, have been charged with one count of vulnerable adult abuse, a class 3 felony.
The indictment alleged that the care home operators and managers recklessly endangered the health of Rager who died last year, after two days of living in the facility without air conditioning while experiencing extreme heat.
Filipino care home owner Ariel Carlos has known the Someras for 15 years.
"I don't know enough about the case, I should say that first. But I think something could have been done to prevent not having air conditioning for a couple of days," said Carlos.
Carlos and other Filipino care home operators said tragedies could be prevented with a disaster plan in place.
"Air conditioning technicians can be really hard to get to your home right away because they are very busy during the summer time. Taking that into account if they can't come for a few hours, we have gone to home depot and bought portable air conditioning units just so we can cool the house," he said.
Another care home owner Tessa Baylon said it is important to have plans in place.
"Being an assisted living owner or manager, it's very important to know those steps and plans because we have a big responsibility in taking care of these people," she said.
According to the Department of Health Environmental Standards, temperatures in facilities must be between 21 and 28 degrees Celsius at all times.
The temperature inside Rager's home during his death was nearly 38 degrees Celsius.
"The elderly population are very susceptible to heat stroke. Some of these people are immobile, bedridden, they don't communicate," said Dr. Collins Villamor.
He added, "We need to pay close attention to make sure they are not placed in this type of environments where they’re susceptible to heat stroke."
The Someras pleaded not guilty in court last Friday. Oral arguments are set on September 6 at the Maricopa County Superior Court.
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