HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- There’s developing news as we check-in with state leaders, one day after a judge dismissed the charges against the two previous heads of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home. Family members told us Tuesday they are still waiting for justice.
We spoke with the lawyer who represents family members who lost loved ones in the COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home. He said the decision to drop the criminal charges will not affect their efforts in a civil case.
In spring of 2020, almost 80 veterans died in a COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home. Laurie Mandeville Beaudette's father was one of the residents who died.
"I knew in my heart and in my gut, he would not survive this,” Mandeville Beaudette said.
According to court documents, former Holyoke Soldiers' Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh and former medical director David Clinton were charged with criminal neglect because of a decision to merge two dementia housing units at the home, back in March 2020.
On Monday, a Hampden County Superior Court judge dropped all 10 criminal neglect charges against the two men. His ruling said, in part:
“There is insufficient, reasonably trustworthy evidence that, had these two dementia units not been merged, the medical condition of any of these five veterans would have been materially different.”
Mandeville Beaudette added, "I was furious, furious and disappointed, and then of course, you just start going through the stages of grief all over again."
On Tuesday, Mandeville Beaudette and other family members who were affected, met with Mass. Attorney General Maura Healey's office on the matter. Now, the attorney general's office would not comment on the details of the meeting, but Laurie said they were discussing with the families whether or not they would appeal the judge's ruling.
"They're going to make a decision within the next month,” Mandeville Beaudette noted.
Western Mass News checked in with State Senator John Velis, who's also the chairman of the Veteran's and Federal Affairs Committee and a veteran himself. He commented on how he felt about what happened at the home back in 2020.
"When veterans decide that this is where they want to stay for the remaining days of their lives, we need to make sure everything that we do, whether it's infection control or just making sure that they got a place that they can call home and live in just a gracious place, they've earned it,” Velis explained.
Velis said moving forward, his job as a legislator and a representative for veterans in the Bay State is to make sure something like this never happens again.
As for the family members, this isn't over. Michael Aleo, the attorney representing more than 20 families involved, released a statement that said:
"The court's decision was devastating for the families who lost loved ones at the Soldiers’ Home. The civil case will move forward and will not be impacted by the court's decision to dismiss the criminal charges."
Mandeville Beaudette said, "We just want justice for our family members who died over poor decisions by management."