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Personal caregiver facing charges of neglect, theft

GRANITE FALLS -- A personal care attendant is charged with theft and criminal neglect in the care of a paralyzed woman who was also her friend.

Prosecutors charge that Casandra Kay Sannerud's neglect and failure to report severe pressure sores was a contributing factor that led to the amputation of the woman's legs and hips.

Sannerud, 26, of Clarkfield, appeared Monday in District Court in Granite Falls. The court approved her request that a public defender be appointed.

Sannerud is charged with three counts of felony theft and gross misdemeanor charges of criminal neglect and failure to report.

Sannerud was caring for Jennifer Jo Darville, 31, of Clarkfield. Darville is paralyzed as the result of a July 4, 2004, all-terrain vehicle accident in Yellow Medicine County.

A WCCO television report in May 2010 led to an investigation by the Minnesota Attorney General's Office and the charges now filed.

Darville suffered severe pressure sores and an infection that progressed into her leg bones and hip sockets and led to the amputations.

The investigation found that Sannerud had filed one report regarding pressure sores that Darville had on her legs during a period from the fall of 2009 to Dec. 31, 2009. Sannerud's report was signed and dated Jan. 14, 2010, after Darville had been admitted to the hospital.

She claimed in the report that she had advised Darville to make an appointment with doctors in Sioux Falls, S.D., or Willmar for two pressure sores that were not healing, but stated that Darville had not done so.

Sannerud claimed on time sheets to be working seven days a week, 40 to 48 hours per week, through most of the period that she served as a caregiver.

The complaint stated that a physician also believed Darville was neglecting her own health.

"The patient was never very good about her follow-up care and did not adjust her lifestyle adequately to live a safe and productive life as a paraplegic,'' the complaint quotes the physician. (She) had a "habit of hiring her friends as caregivers and then using the money provided by the state of Minnesota to buy marijuana which they shared in quite significant quantities ... ''

Darville has a November 2004 conviction for wrongfully obtaining assistance and was found guilty of violating the terms of her probation in November 2010, according to court records.

The theft charges against Sannerud allege that she turned in time cards for reimbursements when records show that she was working at a nursing home.

The investigation found 109 overlaps totaling 440 hours with a monetary value of $7,034.30 for personal care attendant services not provided, stated the complaint.

She was placed on administrative leave from her nursing home position when the current charges were filed against her on Jan. 31.

Another personal care attendant who worked with Sannerud in caring for Darville was also charged in a companion case. Natalie Ann Hanson, 25, of Plymouth, pleaded guilty on Jan. 31 to a gross misdemeanor charge of theft - false representation.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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