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Dueling accounts at trial in Haverford dementia abuse case

They were the kind of allegations likely to ratchet up the fear level for anyone who has ever had an elderly dependent.

They were the kind of allegations likely to ratchet up the fear level for anyone who has ever had an elderly dependent.

Three caregivers, allegedly caught on a secret camera, were arrested this spring and charged with taunting and abusing a 78-year-old woman with dementia living in Haverford Township's Quadrangle Senior Living Community.

But at a trial before Judge Kevin F. Kelly in Delaware County Court on Friday, two very different versions of the events emerged. Kelly did not render a verdict, saying he would announce his decision Thursday after reviewing the matter.

Assistant District Attorney Robert F. Manzi Jr. told Kelly on Friday that Tyrina Griffin, 22, and Ayesha Muhammad, 19, both of Philadelphia, and Samirah Traynham, 22, of Yeadon, gathered around and assaulted Lois McCallister in her room on March 31. They mocked her confused state, poking at and prodding her and preventing her from leaving her room as she tried to escape, he said.

Traynham also allegedly hit and pushed McCallister in a separate incident three days earlier.

Both events were caught on video from a secret camera hidden in a clock radio that Mary and Paul French, McCallister's daughter and son-in-law, had put on a dresser in her room because they suspected the woman was being mistreated.

The caregivers were charged with simple assault, false imprisonment, harassment and conspiracy.

Defense attorneys for the three said they were only trying to help a confused and disoriented person get dressed. If any mocking or other misconduct occurred, they said, it did not rise to the level of criminal behavior.

Mazni played the video recording of the two incidents on a television screen that was pointed away from the audience in the courtroom as Kelly watched intently. The video had no sound.

The assistant district attorney told Kelly that in the context of McCallister's condition, her treatment amounted to "terrorizing her. . . . This person has a much different grasp on reality than the rest of us do," he said. "I submit they were trying to put her in fear through their actions."

Michael J. Malloy, Traynham's attorney, told Kelly: "I didn't see any kind of contact. . . . This was an attempt to get her dressed; that's all that happened.

Robert D'Agostino, Muhammad's lawyer, asked rhetorically if the women had "violated Quadrangle's rules? Maybe. But I saw no crime."

And Joseph Del Sordo, Griffin's attorney, told the judge that false imprisonment would be something like "locking the door; you can't go." McCallister, he said, "was free to leave."

Kelly, too, challenged Manzi, questioning whether "the grabbing of the arm is false imprisonment." And he asked if mocking someone created a fear of imminent bodily injury. Manzi said that McCallister was "trying to leave" and that the defendants were "not mocking her, they're terrorizing her."

McCallister is now at home with the French family. Her daughter said that "she still has fear; that kind of thing sticks in your mind."

Paul French maintains that his mother-in-law was criminally assaulted. "She was terrified," he said.