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Assisted-living employee lied during search for missing dementia patient in Swansea, police say

Assisted-living employee lied during search for missing dementia patient in Swansea, police say

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Silver Alert for Willie Tanner

The Silver Alert for Willie Tanner.

SWANSEA — A staffer at a Metro East assisted-living facility was charged with felony neglect for hampering the search for a dementia patient, police said Thursday.

St. Clair County prosecutors charged Bridgett D. Williams, 60, of the Belleville area, with criminal neglect of a long-term care facility resident.

Williams, a certified nursing assistant at Cambridge House of Swansea, led first-responders who were trying to find the patient “in nearly the wrong direction,” police said. The man was found “barely conscious in a deep ravine” nearly 36 hours after he disappeared, police said, and was recovering at a hospital.

In a series of Facebook posts about the case, Swansea police said they were first notified at 9:30 a.m. Monday that Willie Tanner, 69, had gone missing. Officers were told by Williams that she took Tanner’s vitals and found him missing when she returned with breakfast. Police said Williams gave three statements that were not true, and surveillance video showed Tanner walking on a road to the north of the facility late Sunday night.

Tanner’s disappearance triggered a search involving 250 first responders from multiple police and fire departments and other agencies, as well as an airplane, three drones and 10 search dogs, police said. He was finally found by Fairview Heights police Capt. C.J. Beyersdorfer, authorities said.

Police said that Williams’ actions “are not representative of the care given at Cambridge House,” where staffers “were extremely helpful in the investigation and showed great concern for all of their residents.”

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