Second nurse faces criminal charges

Anna Mae Adams
Anna Mae Adams

Second nurse faces criminal charges
By: CJ Cassidy

DEXTER, Mo. - A local woman said she could have died at the hands of her nurse.
We take a closer look at how that happened, and what you can do to help change the law.
Most of us rarely question a medical professional's opinion. After all, they're the experts.
But, our investigative report may have you thinking twice.
Tuesday we told you about Ceceli Freed, a Dexter nurse facing charges for stealing drugs.
Now we're learning more about another nurse - Natalie Ritter, also of Dexter, who also faces charges for stealing and possession of a controlled substance.
So, how did these nurses get away with what they were allegedly doing for so long?
It's a question Anna Mae Adams would like answered.  She suffers from several illnesses, and uses word games to avoid thinking about her pain.
Now though, she puzzles over why her in-home nurse - Natalie Ritter- allegedly put her in harm's way.
"I was supposed to take Vicodan for pain and she switched them out with Extra Strength Tylenol," Adams said.
Adams said Ritter even explained why the pills looked different.
"She said you know these days drugstores are always buying pills from different companies, and different companies make them in different shapes," she said. 
Adams knew Ritter no longer worked at Caring Hearts Home Care in Dexter, but she still allowed the nurse to care for her in her home, and that's when the stealing allegedly began.
"If I'd taken enough of them, given me enough complications I would have been in big trouble," she said.
Court records show Caring Hearts employees immediately called police when they suspected a problem, but that doesn't happen everywhere.
Cecili Freed, is accused of stealing controlled drugs from Crowley Ridge Care Center in Dexter, but before that she worked at Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center, in Poplar Bluff.
Court records show managers there fired Freed for mishandling narcotics, but they only reported her to the Missouri State Board of Nursing - not to police.
A representative tells me they "suspected Ritter of stealing narcotics, but had no evidence to prove she did anything criminal, only that her documentation did not add up".
Anna Mae Adams says there needs to be checks and balances to make sure what happened to her, doesn't happen to anyone else.
"You put your whole self in their hands because your home is wide open to them," Adams said. "You're wide open to them."
An attorney for the State Board of Nursing said hospitals and certain out-patient surgery centers are mandated by Missouri law to report wrongdoing by licensed nurses.
He said they have tried to add nursing homes to that list for a while.
Call your state representative and speak up if you have any thoughts.
On another note, background checks would only reveal information if the State Board has taken action against someone's license, not when there is an ongoing investigation.