The Fresh River Healthcare nursing home in East Windsor. Yehyun Kim /
The Fresh River Healthcare in East Windsor. Yehyun Kim /

The state Department of Public Health has fined the owners of an East Windsor nursing home $10,000 for failing to protect the safety of their residents and staff when they admitted a 50-year-old registered sex offender from Massachusetts who allegedly tried to sexually assault a nurse.

The incident occurred on May 19, when Miguel Lopez, a convicted rapist and a registered sex offender in Massachusetts with a warrant out for his arrest at that time, allegedly locked a female employee in his room at the Fresh River Healthcare nursing home and tried to force her to perform oral sex.

DPH investigators’ 88-page report includes an interview with the nurse and reports other incidents when Lopez had made sexual suggestions or threats against staff in the month he had been there — and in one instance was caught looking at pornography on a computer in a nurse’s office.

In the weeks before the alleged attack, Lopez had threatened to “choke someone out” and warned staff he “wasn’t someone to be f… with,” the report states.

DPH investigators visited Fresh River on June 14, the same day that the CT Mirror published a story about Lopez and the alleged assault.

Lopez was arrested later that month and charged with attempted first-degree sexual assault, third-degree sexual assault and first-degree unlawful restraint. He was extradited back to Connecticut and is being held on $300,000 bail. His next court appearance is Nov. 6.

The 50-year-old Lopez wasn’t known to local police because of a loophole in Connecticut’s sex offender laws, which do not require nursing home operators to inform state police when they admit a registered sex offender from another state into one of their facilities.

The law currently places the burden on the sex offender themselves to register. Several Republican lawmakers have said that they will propose legislation in the next session to close the loophole. It was too late to do so in the last legislative session.

Lopez is at least the third registered sex offender from Massachusetts transferred to facilities run by iCare Health Network in Connecticut since December. State police detectives were at Fresh River on the morning of May 19 registering a different sex offender, who also was living at Fresh River, but were not aware that Lopez was also living there and had been since April.

Lopez was transferred to Fresh River on April 20 from the emergency room of a Holyoke Hospital where he had been for three months following a brain biopsy. Hospital officials had been unable to place Lopez in a Massachusetts short-term rehabilitation center because of his status as a level 2 sex offender, the DPH report said.

But then iCare agreed to have him transported to Fresh River on April 20. The DPH investigation shows that Lopez was immediately an issue for staff at the facility. Staff members told DPH inspectors that Lopez had “exit seeking behaviors” and would often wander into other patients’ rooms and get into their beds.

He also frequently went behind the nurses station and sat in their chairs, and once he was observed looking at pornography on a computer in a staff office. Lopez was placed on Trazodone, an anti-depressant, to control his anxiety and anger issues, the report states.

The incident with the nurse occurred on May 19 at 2:35 p.m., when staff heard a scream coming from Lopez’s room. They found the nurse in the doorway with her blouse partially ripped off and her bra exposed.

The nurse told staff that “Lopez had grabbed her by the neck and attacked her,” the DPH report said. She said that as he grabbed her, Lopez pulled down his pants and started pushing her head towards his exposed genitals, the report states.

The nurse was taken to the police department to file a complaint while Lopez was immediately transported back to Holyoke before police were able to interview him.

In a brief phone interview with DPH investigators, the nurse said she was aware that Lopez had been caught viewing pornography and that “she knew the resident was inappropriate for the facility.”

iCare spokesman David Skoczulek said Thursday that they have appealed the $10,000 fine and are awaiting a hearing with DPH officials.

Skoczulek previously told CT Mirror that they were aware Lopez was a registered sex offender before admitting him but that the law does not require them to inform the state police if an out-of-state sex offender is admitted to one of its facilities.

The DPH investigation highlighted issues with another sex offender at Fresh River.

The second sex offender was admitted on Feb. 8, also from an out-of-state facility, with a history of criminal acts towards children. Within days, he had already warned the staff that if someone touched his stuff he’d “murder” someone, the report states.

On numerous instances, the man threatened to “burn down the building” if staff didn’t come to help him. His verbal abuse of staff increased, the report states.

Several staff members also complained that the man would masturbate in front of them in his wheelchair. DPH investigators concluded that staff was being put in danger and that the nursing home hadn’t developed a plan to keep them safe.

It is unclear if the second sex offender is still at Fresh River.

Dave does in-depth investigative reporting for CT Mirror. His work focuses on government accountability including financial oversight, abuse of power, corruption, safety monitoring, and compliance with law. Before joining CT Mirror Altimari spent 23 years at the Hartford Courant breaking some of the state’s biggest, most impactful investigative stories.