Weather Forecast


Former nursing home aide faces abuse charges

MONTEVIDEO -- A nursing home aide in Montevideo who was cited in a report by the Minnesota Department of Health for allegedly abusing six elderly residents now faces criminal charges.

Maria Josephine Bjerke, 25, of Montevideo, faces six separate gross misdemeanor charges. The charges filed Tuesday in District Court include mistreatment of residents, criminal neglect, fifth-degree assault, criminal abuse and disorderly conduct.

The charges result from allegations of abuse dating from Oct. 23, 2006, to July 11, 2008, when her employment by Luther Haven Nursing Home was terminated. The charges list allegations of abuse against six residents.

The case had attracted widespread attention in the state when the report was released in December, in part because there was the possibility that no criminal charges would be filed since all of the alleged victims suffer from dementia.

According to the criminal complaint, the Department of Health reported the allegations of abuse to the Montevideo Police Department, which launched an investigation. Bjerke had allegedly acted alone when abusing residents, according to the report by the Department of Health.

The report stated that another nursing assistant had reported the alleged abuse to Luther Haven administrators on July 11. They terminated her employment that day.

The allegations against her include charges that she sexually tormented a male resident by lap dancing and allowing him to sexually touch her, then treating him roughly, allegedly in front of his spouse.

The most egregious charge against her alleges that she poked her finger into a cancerous hole of a resident with vulva cancer, and laughed as the victim screamed and cried. Other allegations range from a charge she wrist slapped a resident to another claiming that she tormented a resident by squeezing and tossing dolls that the resident was emotionally attached to.

Bjerke denied all of the allegations when interviewed by the Montevideo Police Department, according to the complaint.