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BENNINGTON

Nursing assistant acquitted in death

Jury finds woman not guilty of murder

A Bennington nursing assistant accused of murdering a woman by injecting her with a fatal dose of insulin was found not guilty by a jury in Vermont on Friday.

Jodi LaClaire, 39, was charged with giving an insulin shot to Nita Lowery, an 83-year-old resident of the Thompson House nursing home in Brattleboro, Vt., on March 23, 2009. LaClaire was the only nursing assistant on duty at the home on the night before Lowery was discovered unconscious and slumped in her wheelchair at about 7:09 a.m., shortly after LaClaire’s shift ended. Lowery was taken to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, where she died nine days later, after never regaining consciousness.

LaClaire was also acquitted of a charge of abuse of a vulnerable adult.

She was convicted on seven counts of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, however, after the jury found that she had accessed Lowery’s desktop computer and used a PIN number she found to make ATM withdrawals from Lowery’s bank account during the time that Lowery was in a coma.

“This was a unique and complex case,” LaClaire’s attorney, Dan Sedon of Chelsea, Vt., said by phone on Monday. “It was a circumstantial case. The state’s argument amounted to a collection of opinions of medical experts. Those opinions were not as well-supported as the state initially thought.”

Sedon said the state’s medical examiner ruled that Lowery had died as the result of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, but did not rule on the method of death. He said defense witness Dr. Vincent Marks, who Sedon described as one of the world’s premier experts on hypoglycemia, had testified that there was a lack of evidence to support the charge.

Sedon said LaClaire could have faced a life sentence on the murder charge and up to 20 years in prison on the abuse of a vulnerable adult charge.

LaClaire, who was held on $150,000 bail following her arrest, remains incarcerated at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in Vermont, pending sentencing on the convictions.

Sedon said he intends to appeal the financial exploitation convictions.

LaClaire took more than $4,000 from Lowery’s accounts, according to court documents. Under Vermont law, she could a penalty of up to 10 years in prison or a $10,000 fine on each of the financial exploitation convictions.

When she was arrested in 2011, LaClaire was working at Pheasant Wood Care and Rehabilitation Center in Peterborough. Pheasant Wood officials said at the time that LaClaire was immediately suspended when they learned of the investigation. At the time of the arrest, she had been a Bennington resident for three years, according to Bennington Police Chief Steve Campbell.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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