SAN ANTONIO – More than a year after the family of Dora Bowman filed a wrongful death lawsuit over her treatment inside a North Side assisted care home, the defendant in the case had yet to even retain an attorney.
It’s unclear at this point who that defendant even is, since the owner of the home, Andreen McDonald, was killed in 2019. Her remains were found on 50 acres of private property in far north Bexar County months after she was reported missing.
Her husband, Air Force major Andre McDonald, remains in jail awaiting trial on charges of murder and tampering with evidence related to her disappearance.
Those cases, along with pending probate matters related to Andreen McDonald’s estate and guardianship of the couple’s daughter, have caused a legal logjam with Bowman’s family placed way at the back.
“There’s no way to express how unjust this was.”
Bowman, who worked as a beautician and in restaurants after moving to San Antonio in 1947, retired at age 65 but remained active well into her late 90s, family members told the KSAT 12 Defenders.
But as her health began to fade, Bowman was admitted to a Starlight Homes’ facility in the 400 block of Bryn Mawr in early February 2019, a day after her 100th birthday.
“It was more of a homey environment, which we thought would be an easier transition,” said Bowman’s granddaughter Audrey Ethridge, who described her grandmother’s memory as ‘very poor’ and said she had reached the point of needing to be continuously cared for by others.
It would prove to be a brief stay for Bowman.
On April 12, 2019, one of Bowman’s other granddaughters and a neighbor stopped by to visit her at the home.
Inside they found Bowman bruised and battered, with significant trauma to her head, shoulder and backside, suffering injuries consistent with someone who had been assaulted.
An X-ray of Bowman, taken after she was admitted to an area hospital, revealed a fractured pelvis as well, records show.
“There’s no way to express how unjust this was,” said Bowman’s daughter Juanda White.
Records from multiple investigations regarding the incident confirm that staff did not contact Bowman’s family, and instead immediately terminated a caregiver thought to have been involved in the woman’s assault.
The caregiver, who has never been criminally charged for the incident, took off around 1 a.m. that night, records from the Health and Human Services Commission confirm.
More troubling, Bowman’s roommate said the caregiver had stuffed a sock in Bowman’s mouth in order to try to keep her quiet, according to intake notes included in the state’s investigation.
Bowman, who died a week after being removed from the facility, showed significant bruising around her mouth in the days before she passed away.
“And she was just so afraid and so scared for the next seven days of her life. She cried and was just terrified. We never really could get her back,” said Ethridge, who added that her grandmother was allowed to spend one final night in her home after being released from the hospital, before passing away at a nursing home.
An autopsy performed on Bowman noted a history of blunt force trauma to her head, but the final cause of death was listed as complications of dementia and heart disease, Bexar County Medical Examiner records show.
In August 2019, HHSC investigators determined they could not find violations of rules or regulations governing assisted care facilities.
A substantiated finding of resident abuse was pending the outcome of the police investigation.
San Antonio Police Department detectives, who had investigated the incident as an assault of the elderly, eventually closed the case due to insufficient evidence, an SAPD spokesman said.
“It’s heartbreaking to have my grandmother lose her life after being such a strong woman and living a hundred years. And then the very last week is just complete trauma from being beat up, because she was so strong,” said Ethridge.
In mid-July 2019, just days after Andre McDonald was charged with murdering his wife, an administrator for Andreen McDonald’s company informed the state that she needed assistance and guidance to close down the Bryn Mawr location and move its patients elsewhere, records show.
By late August the facility was closed, according to state records.
The home has since re-opened under a new owner, who told the Defenders last month she is not associated with Andreen McDonald’s company and pays rent to Andre McDonald.
Attorneys associated with the legal cases involving Andreen McDonald’s death said those funds are actually part of her estate, which has still not formally gone through probate.
A guardianship case to determine custody of the couple’s daughter has also not been finalized, although in all likelihood the child will be permanently placed with Andreen McDonald’s mother, according to an attorney familiar with the proceedings.
In April 2020, Bowman’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Starlight Homes, claiming it created a setting that allowed the abuse and neglect of residents and it failed to report signs of abuse and neglect.
But, to date, the lawsuit has not progressed.
“There’s been no one that will say ‘I was in charge. I was running the facility.’ It has been impossible to really pin down who was running the facility at the time, who was responsible, because part of the time she was there, Andreen was missing,” said Ethridge.
Last month, Bexar County filed a separate lawsuit against McDonald’s company claiming that it owes well over $46,000 in unpaid property taxes on the Bryan Mawr address.
A separate 2017 federal lawsuit accused Andreen McDonald and her company of not paying overtime to its employees.
The woman who filed the suit claimed she worked 150 hours during a single pay period from late July to early August 2017, but did not receive any overtime compensation for the 70 hours worked in excess of her regular time.
Andreen McDonald denied violating federal laws pertaining to wages, but ultimately settled the case in late March 2018 for a sum under $5,000, court records show.