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Kimberly Lappe, nurse involved in patient death, freed from jail

Kimberly Lappe, who is charged with ignoring audible

Kimberly Lappe, who is charged with ignoring audible signals that resulted in a patient's death at a Medford nursing home, is shown at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Credit: James Carbone

An appellate court justice on Friday ordered the release of a former nurse from a Riverhead jail where she has been serving time for her role in the 2012 death of a Medford nursing home resident while she appeals her sentence and conviction.

Kimberly Lappe, 34, of Southold, who has served about four months of her nine-month sentence, was to be freed from the Suffolk County jail Friday after a Brooklyn appellate justice temporarily suspended her sentence and gave Lappe 120 days to file her appeal.

Her attorney, Scott Gross of Garden City, said his client expressed happiness at her release and said she wanted to give her family a “big hug.”

Lappe, a registered nurse, and eight other former staff members at Multicare Center for Living were prosecuted by State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office in connection with the October 2012 death of the home’s resident, Aurelia Rios, 72, of Central Islip.

Lappe was convicted of five charges by a jury and sentenced in October 2015.

Gross, in his petition to State Supreme Court Justice John M. Leventhal of the Appellate Division in the Second Department, said the judge who presided over Lappe’s trial made a mistake when he sentenced Lappe to five years’ probation and 9 months in jail. Gross argued that the maximum punishment State Supreme Court Justice John B. Collins could have imposed was five years’ probation and 6 months in jail.

Schneiderman, through a spokesman, declined to comment on the judge’s decision Friday.

In September 2012, Rios, who had a tracheotomy, was admitted to the Medford facility’s short-term rehabilitation unit to help wean her from the ventilator, which she had depended on to help her breathe while asleep.

On Oct. 25, 2012, a respiratory therapist failed to connect Rios to the ventilator, and the staff, including Lappe, ignored audible and visual alarms for more than two hours signaling that Rios was in medical distress, state prosecutors had said.

Rios was found dead in her bed by a nurse’s aide at about 3:30 a.m. the next day.

The nursing home staff told Rios’ daughter that her mother died of a heart attack. But a whistle-blower reported the suspicious circumstances surrounding Rios’ death to state health investigators, who notified Schneiderman’s office.

Lappe, the nursing home and eight other former employees were indicted and convicted of various crimes, including attempts to hide the true cause of Rios’ death.

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