A home health aide who allegedly hit a dementia patient on the head before the 83-year-old bled to death in his Garden City home told detectives she lashed out after he threw his walker and told her to get out, court records show.
Defendant Gail Godwin, 62, of Bay Shore, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Nassau County Court to an indictment for manslaughter, assault, tampering with physical evidence and endangering an incompetent or physically disabled person.
"It happened so fast. I didn't mean to hurt him," a court filing shows Godwin said in statements to detectives after the death of Monroe Street resident John Busch.
Authorities have alleged Busch died Dec. 27 after Godwin, who cared for him for 18 months, hit him with a wooden object and then waited several hours to call for help. They said Busch was on blood thinners and bled profusely, but instead of getting him timely medical attention, Godwin tried to clean up his blood in the house after inflicting multiple lacerations to his head.
Court records referenced at Tuesday's arraignment show the defendant admitted she armed herself with a back scratcher after Busch yelled, threw items at her and ignored her command to stop.
"I grabbed it and hit him real fast and once I saw the blood that was it and said 'Oh God what did I do?'" Godwin told detectives.
The defendant also told police she tried to stop the bleeding, gave Busch a shower and threw out bloody clothes and towels before using Google to get the phone number for the Garden City Police Department.
Prosecutor Nicole Aloise said in court that Godwin used bleach and vinegar to try to clean up as Busch bled to death on his bedroom floor. Godwin only called for help after the victim — who also suffered from schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease — already was dead, according to the prosecutor.
Aloise said Godwin claimed when police arrived that Busch had fallen in the bathroom 15 minutes earlier and hit his head, but "finally came clean" as hours passed and blood was found throughout the house.
Godwin’s attorney, Bruce Barket, said in court Tuesday "that when the facts are all heard, things will be a little bit more complicated." He told acting State Supreme Court Justice Robert Schwartz that Busch "should have been in a home" and had neurological and psychiatric issues that caused him to be physically and racially abusive to Godwin.
"My client did the best she could to care for him and to tend to him, not realizing that he was in a life-threatening situation until after he expired," Barket added.
Godwin, who has been a home health aide for 42 years, is facing up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top charge.
Schwartz kept her bond at $200,000 and ordered her back to court March 3. Godwin ignored a request for comment Tuesday, but told detectives in December she was ready for any consequences.
"Whatever I get, I get. There's nothing I can do now," Godwin said then. "... I shouldn't have put my hands on him, but it happened."