Capital Clicks

Assisted-living worker charged with murder will stand trial in March

By: - November 11, 2022 1:13 pm

Catherine Forkpa (inset) is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 77-year-old Lynne Stewart at the Courtyard Estates at Hawthorne Crossing in Bondurant. She is expected to stand trial in March. (Photo illustration by Iowa Capital Dispatch. Photos by Polk County Jail and Clark Kauffman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

An Iowa caregiver charged with murder in the death of an elderly assisted living resident is now expected to stand trial in March.

Catherine Forkpa, 31, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 77-year-old Lynne Stewart at the Courtyard Estates at Hawthorne Crossing, an assisted living center in Bondurant. The charge carries a penalty of up to 50 years in prison.

Initially, her trial was scheduled to begin next week. It has since been rescheduled for March 6.

The murder charge is highly unusual for a case involving a care-facility worker accused of neglect.

State records indicate Stewart walked out of Courtyard Estates about 9:40 p.m. on Jan. 21, triggering a series of alarms at the facility. According to police, surveillance video shows Forkpa, a caregiver at the home, walking around the facility for hours without checking on Stewart or resetting the alarm system.

Shortly after 6 a.m., workers found Stewart outside, on the ground, with her parts of her body covered in ice. She was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. Forkpa, who had worked at Courtyard Estates for seven months, was fired and four other employees were given written warnings for their failure to respond to door alarms, according to state records.

By law, Forkpa was supposed to have received at least 8 hours of dementia training in her first 30 days on the job. The home’s records suggest she received no more than 4.75 hours of training in that time, state inspectors have alleged.

The facility’s executive director and on-call registered nurse each received a series of door-alarm alerts on their phones during the night while they were at home, but they did not respond to them, according to inspectors.

The state fined Courtyard Estates $10,000 and cited it for having failed to give Forkpa the required dementia training.

Forkpa, who immigrated to the United States from Africa in 2004, told the Iowa Capital Dispatch in September she doesn’t believe the murder charge is warranted. “I know in my heart I would never do anything to hurt anyone,” she said.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.