Nursing home fire suspect may leave mental hospital

Oct. 1, 2013 at 4:23 PM
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HARTFORD, Conn., Oct. 1 (UPI) -- A Connecticut woman accused of starting a fatal nursing home fire may be moved from a psychiatric hospital back to a nursing home, lawyers said.

Leslie Andino, 33, was charged with 16 counts of arson murder following the 2003 fire that killed 16 people, though because of her mental state she was found incompetent to stand trial. Andino, who suffers from advanced multiple sclerosis, mental illness and has a history of substance abuse, has been held under pretrial custody at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown since the fire, The Hartford Courant reported Tuesday.

Lawyers petitioned a judge to move Andino from the mental hospital to a nursing home in Rhode Island that recently opened a new ward for patients with a history of mental illness.

Andino's family agreed to the move, noting she has a child living in Providence. R.I., who would be able to visit her more often.

The decision was criticized by a nursing home advocate who said putting Andino back in the same environment where she started a fire that killed so many people is "foolhardy."

"I think it's putting the residents in danger in the facility, not to mention the staff," said Brian Lee of the nursing home resident advocacy group Families for Better Care.

Staff at Connecticut Valley said Andino's MS is now so advanced they can no longer provide her with adequate care. Andino requires assistance to get out of bed, go to the bathroom, eat and other basic functions -- substantially reducing her risk of starting another fire.

"She probably hasn't been a threat in the last few years," said John Stawicki, Andino's court-assigned defense lawyer. "Now she's gotten to be in such poor shape health-wise, Connecticut Valley Hospital cannot meet her humane needs that they are required by law to provide her."

Because the arson murder charges remain pending, it was necessary for Superior Court Judge Joan K. Alexander to approve Andino moving to a new facility.

Prosecutors said it's now up to the Rhode Island nursing home to decide whether it will accept Andino. Because of her history, other nursing homes have balked at accepting her as a resident.

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