Last Updated: 7:28 p.m.
A 77-year-old woman who’d been a patient at Gold Choice Assisted Living and Memory Care in Palm Coast was beaten and choked to death by another patient overnight, and was only discovered by a staffer during rounds early this morning.
The alleged assailant, Cliff Mody, 72, has “admitted to killing the victim,” according to a Flagler County Sheriff’s release.
At a press conference this afternoon, Chief Kim Burroughs, the sheriff’s head of investigations, said Mody was still at the facility’s memory care unit as the agency was working with the state Attorney’s Office on charges. It is unusual that a suspect who has admitted to a killing is not readily arrested. Burroughs said he was in a secure facility, but did not have details about his proximity to other patients.
Later this afternoon, the Sheriff’s Office announced that Mody was charged with second degree murder and booked at the Flagler County jail.
Both patients were in the locked down memory care section of the facility–a standard part of many assisted living facilities where patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s and other memory-related complications are housed, and where attention and staffing ratios tend to be higher.
Mody reportedly told authorities that the woman wandered into his room. He was cooperative with authorities, but facility personnel told investigators that he had once attacked another patient, and was moved to the memory care section after that.
Authorities’ delay in charges may have reflected some hesitation about the kind of charges they want to bring forth, given the unusual nature of the incident and what very likely involves mental capacity–and incapacity–issues. Mody would likely be determined to be incompetent to stand trial if he faces a murder charge, and his sanity is by definition in question since he was being housed in a memory care facility, where patients typically are not in full control of their capacities.
Gold Choice Palm Coast, at 3830 Old Kings Road, opened a little over a year ago. It is one of three privately owned gold Choice facilities in the region, with others in Ormond Beach and Deltona.
“The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office is investigating and that is all of the details we’re able to give at this time,” Melissa Marton, the building administrator at the Palm Coast facility, said this afternoon.
“Our fully-secured memory care wing allows residents to experience independence and choose how to spend their time, all with the security of staff monitoring,” the company’s website states, regarding the Palm Coast facility.
Audio: The 911 Call
The victim was discovered a little after 2 a.m. by a staffer, and was pronounced dead shortly after that. Facility staff contacted 911.
A staffer reported that the woman had wandered into Mody’s room, “and I guess he had choked her out. She has expired,” the staffer told the dispatcher. The staffer said Mody “had blood on his hands and she had a busted lip. I could look at her as soon as I walked in and she was expired.” The staffer told the dispatcher she had been trying to get in touch with her bosses, but had been unsuccessful so far–an alarming detail.
“She wandered in my room, she wandered in my room,” the staffer said Mody told staff. “I’m just beside myself,” the staffer said.
The staffer added that Mody had been moved to the memory care side of the building two weeks ago after “we had a problem once in attacking somebody. I don’t know why they just didn’t have him leave.” Just then, deputies arrived at the facility.
“Deputies arrived to find the female victim on the bed in the suspect’s room with facial injuries, not breathing and unconscious,” the sheriff’s release states. “We are dedicated to providing as much independence as is possible for your loved one while still providing 24-hour a day monitoring in our Memory Care unit.”
“This is an unfortunate situation for all families involved, especially the victim’s,” Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said. “The Major Case Unit is still working the investigation and charges are pending. This is a very sad outcome for the victim and her family and our thoughts and prayers are with her family.”
Assisted living facilities are licensed and regulated by the state Agency for Health Care Administration. Records show that the city approved the development of Gold Choice in September 2019. Gold Choice in Palm Coast was licensed on Nov. 30, 2020, for 100 beds. It was last inspected on Oct. 5, 2021. “Deficiencies were not identified at the time of the visit,” the one-page report states. The company is registered under the name of Palm Coast ALF Management LLC with the Division of Corporations. It is registered to Derick Deeter of Lake Mary.
The sheriff’s release added this note: “The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office strongly encourages residents to thoroughly investigate any facility entrusted with the care of a family member. Research facilities and professionals by visiting www.FloridaHealth.gov/licensing-and-regulation.
Was enough people on duty? Did any body hear anything? May God give her strength to get through this sad situation.
One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest type stuff. WOW So sad for the Family. Not the way the Victim should have died. terrible
This makes me sick! WHERE WERE THE NURSES!!! A memory care patient requires CONSTANT supervision AT ALL TIMES. Why is this man unattended if he has had other altercations with other residents? When you have to put a loved one in a facility it is one of the hardest things to do. You put your trust in complete strangers to take care of someone when you are no longer able to. Every single staff member, including the so called director of the shit hole should be ashamed of themselves! May this poor woman rest in peace, and my thoughts and prayers to her family members.
Kathleen Frazier says
Who was called. If the resident is a full code, call it over the intercom, call 911!! Get your team to the room and start procedures for a full code, (if she doesn’t have a DNR). Immediately remove the threat from the room. How long was the resident in the room before anyone noticed?
This falls on SO many departments.
E, ROBOT says
Yikes. He had attacked another patient and was allowed to move about freely within his unit. Not a good idea guys.
Mary Gallo says
Oh how awful. How could this happen? Who’s in charge of checking on the residents. I’m so angry. I’ve had personal experience with two Palm Coast assisted living facilities. My mother was a resident in one and my sister in another. These facilities are in the business to make a profit. They under pay their help and the residents’ needs are often neglected. They buy the cheapest food and products they can find. If, as in my case, your family member can’t communicate the problems you better be there often checking on your family member. And, if you are not fortunate enough to have visitors checking on you, please consider other possible solutions to your needs (home care).
God bless the families of both residents. The poor woman who suffered a horrible death and the elderly man who probably doesn’t understand what he did. I hope the owners of his facility are prosecuted to the full extent of our laws.
While this is certainly a very tragic situation, a resident of a memory care facility who may very well be mentally incompetent to stand trial still should be placed in a more secure environment rather than left where he is for the safety of others. Especially since staff have documentation indicating he previously attacked someone else. A decision leaving him where he is will only likely result in increased liability for that assisted living/memory care facility as well as heightened danger for other residents and staff due to his documented history for attacking people, and now killing someone. That is not the kind of resident anyone’s family would want anywhere near their loved one!
My best friend is a resident there and I am concerned about the quality of care she is receiving.
Time to shut this business down. FlaglerLive, important article.
I think primary responsibility for this tragedy lies with whoever decided to move a known aggressive patient to the memory-care section, where the most vulnerable patients are. That the staff person who called 911 could not contact their supervisor is outlandish and puts undue strain on the entire caretaking staff. Lastly, any blame put on the caretakers is only possible after fully investigating nurse:patient ratios on their night shift, which were probably not adequate. As stated in another comment, condolences to the families of both the murderer and his victim.
This business also put staff at risk. Shut it down..
Charlie Ericksen Jr says
My former wife had a similar job, at a memory center , night shift. And quickly found out that strange things will happen at night and do regularly. . Mostly MEN, in a woman’s bed ….The business implemented a program, just like jails to check everyone REGULARLY , especially all night. In those cases it was for males looking for ” companion services’ etc. This is inexcusable ……….staff needs to be walking REGULARLY,, Condolences
Plaintiffs’ lawyers will be rioting in the parking lot!
Joyce Cotto says
This is a constant problem all over. My husband had Alzheimers & I took care of him, with help from the family for 7 years. It became impossible to help, care for him I admitted him to the Veterans Home in Daytona Beach, within 9 weeks, he was DEAD. I did go to the facility at different times of the day & see him in the bed at noon, when I asked about it, the reply was “He didn’t want to get up” He doesn’t know what is going on, the care, food & caregivers there are awful. PLEASE people, think about these so called HOMES. I regret haaving him there everyday of my life, & it is going on 6 years now. When I tried to get an Attorney look at a burn on his hand, they said if he was still alive I could do something about it, in reality no one wants to touch the Government run homes, poor Veterans!
Gina Weiss says
It’s all about the census folks in these facilities, this is how they make their money the more residents they get the more money they make, and the staff: nurses, CNA’s, are terribly OVERWORKED and UNDERPAID. Is this facility accrediated, when was the most recent check by the DOH, this all needs to be looked into, did they have any recent deficiencies? Especially on units like this there needs to be adequate monitoring, yes the patients can walk freely but with the proper supervision policies and procedures in place.
In used to work i a locked hospital unit. Here is my guess: He still remains at the facility (hopefully, he is gone by now) because they can’t find an ER that will keep or certify him because then they will have to find a hospital bed for him in a facility that has a locked behavioral unit. And they are few and far between in Florida. Other states have prison facilities where they house violent offenders with psychiatric disorders. I don’t know if Florida has such facilities.
I am sad that I had not reported that gold choice had exactly 1 aide on the memory unit for approximately 23 residents. Understaffed is putting it mildly…I went there about 9 months ago for a job interview a position as activities assistant. No wonder I wasn’t offered the job,it was to be activities assistant for both assisted living side & dementia side. This unit tucked well in back of building was so sad,even scary, very cold, it covers up smell of urine, etc,1 aide sitting at a table,residents sitting scattered about doing nothing .I asked aide about who helps her with adls, that is washing,toileting,feeding residents, she said she manages. An impossible job, can’t provide proper care, and certainly not monitoring behaviors. I truly regret not going to state agency, to report gross negligence. I’ve learned my lesson,see something, say something, these elderly count on us.
Gina Weiss says
Hi Marie: Apparently the owners/administrators want to make all the money with giving themselves HIGH salaries at the expense of human dignity and life, this place should be shut down by the DOH immediately, I can’t understand how they functioned and got away with this. Sometimes the staff themselves are afraid to report to the DOH in fear that they will be found out and could lose their jobs, and then there sometimes is a buddy system in these places that exist where a problemed resident will be taken off a unit and put on another one, happened to me up north where they use to dump people on my unit who did not belong there despite all my reasons why a resident did not belong they would just ignore so I ended up leaving but did contact the proper authorities. It was sad cause my staff liked me and the way I ran my unit but if you do not have the support from your administration a nurse can end up losing their license and I worked too hard to get it.
Joyce Cotto says
Yes, these so called Nursing HOMES are terrible, thankyou for writing about your experience there. I also had a bad experience at the Veterans home in Daytona Beach, but because it is run by the Government, nothing is done or even addressed. I agree, SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. Joyce Cotto
T L Hamilton says
While sad and tragic, this is the sign of the times. ALL our health care communities are under staffed, way under staffed, these days. There may have been only 1 -2 people on staff that night for over 40 people in the overnight shift. I see it everyday that we will not have enough caregivers to do the job of taking care of our loved ones. Sure shut them down, then we have even more problems. Rally around your health care system. Ask where you can help. Learn about the disease, knowledge is powerful! There is still a human on both sides of the equation here. Remember, it takes a village to care for a loved one who is ill, any illness. Our health care village is pretty much disseminated after covid (it was already hanging on by a thread before covid!). So before you go chastising a long term care community or organization, ask questions. I’m so sorry to the family of both victims. I am more sorry for the staff that were there that night to discover the whole thing.
Mary G says
To be clear there are guidelines as to the number of staff established by the State. In my personal experience I witnessed obvious measures to circumvent the rules, example the owner’s son and husband filling in. Make no mistake these facilities want to make a huge profit and are willing to bend the rules. My sister was charged $7000 a month for cheap food, limited care. Hospice ended up doing the majority of her care.
Gina Weiss says
This has been going on forever in Long Term Care facilities all over not just here. It comes from the owners and the administration who are usually people they know, if you have a bad director, assistant director and administrator at a facility the attitude trickles down to the staff, if they don’t nuture their staff it’s a domino effect, example in the facility I worked the director of Nursing told staff upon her boyfriends parents coming in for rehab to give them special attention or else they would all be fired, every resident is entitled to special attention.
I have the answer,pay the aides more, not $12, $15 per hr more like $20 + and make sure you hire enough of them. I interviewed at Gold Choice last year for activities assistant position, I was shocked; on the dementia unit,Day shift! there was 1 aide and about 21 residents. I only wish I had reported it to state agency back then. Outrageous, imagine night shift?! Anyone back there? Tragic
Gina Weiss says
I find it stunning how this country STILL cannot protect and provide for our most vulnerable populations our children and our elderly, it is truly disgraceful, our government knows very well what is going on here for decades and STILL holds no one accountable for atrocities that are committed to this very day, stop blaming overworked poor and middleclass people who are trying to earn a living to survive. PAY teachers, nurses, aides the salaries they truly deserve and you will find positions filled and not lacking the crucial services that are needed. There are paper pushes in high positions making 6 figures and more who sit behind a desk and literally do nothing all day other then going to meetings with their cohorts, dictating to the working class overworking them until they can not longer function. If PC officials can vote themselves a raise because they feel that their work is not commensurate with their salaries then why aren’t the workers who dedicate their lives in life/ death situations not paid or give the proper tools to work with is what they truly deserve.
Joyce Cotto says
Your comment is so TRUE. Congrats for speaking out, seems like no one cares, once they have put their loved ones in a facility. One of the worst is the VA in Daytona Beach. I have made my concerns known, but since it is the
gov. no one does anything.
Omg poor woman died a very violent death .she was obviously confused wandering in his room but what kind of reaction was that to kill her choke the life out of her with his hands ? Totally sickening and evil