$25M lawsuit claims Wayne County group home let 71-year-old woman starve to death

Everyone named in suit no longer works at group home

BELLEVILLE, Mich. – A $25 million lawsuit claims 71-year-old Bertha Jones was slowly starved to death over two and a half months while living in a Wayne County group home.

Bertha Jones was blind, deaf and unable to speak, and attorneys claim she weighed just 75 pounds when she died. The allegations made in the lawsuit were shocking, and the family blames the group home for Jones’ death.

Jones died on May 2, 2022. In the lawsuit, her family revealed her official cause of death: protein-calorie malnutrition -- meaning she starved to death.

Charlene Jones is the niece of Bertha Jones, and she blames the group home where the 71-year-old lived and needed around-the-clock care. Charlene Jones is suing the nursing home and the people charged with caring for her aunt for $25 million.

Charlene Jones says a family member told her to get to the hospital where her aunt was, because her aunt’s organs were failing.

“At that time, that is when I found out the condition that she was in,” Charlene Jones said. “She had not eaten. She had lost drastic weight, and her organs were shutting down.”

Hoeft House, the group home in question, is located on Hoeft Road in Belleville.

The family says Bertha Jones was blind, deaf, unable to communicate and needed to be fed pureed food. In February 2022, Bertha Jones weighed 126 pounds. Her niece said she then noticed rapid weight loss. By April 2022, Bertha Jones weighed 75 pounds.

Albert Dib is the family’s attorney, who says the group home told the hospital that the 71-year-old was eating regularly.

“There was no way she could be eating or could be found in the condition that she was in,” Dib said. “She died of protein-calorie malnutrition, which is death by starvation.”

The group home had no comment, but Local 4 is working with the Detroit Wayne Integrated Heath Network, which investigated the group home. Everyone named in the lawsuit is no longer working at the group home.

Regarding licensing, the suit alleges that the group home dropped its license and went to a tenant-landlord situation to accept care there. That may be how they can avoid being sued for oversight and regulation.

About the Authors:

Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been with Local 4 News for more than a decade.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.