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Norwich lawyer feels betrayed by home health aide

By Karen Florin

Publication: The Day

Published 05/01/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 05/01/2013 11:54 PM

Norwich - Attorney Morris "Murray" Czaczkes, seriously injured when he fell off a ladder last fall, then diagnosed with lung cancer, says he is recovering steadily but that he still suffers from the emotional and financial wounds inflicted by a home health care aide.

Czaczkes, 58, has practiced law for decades in Norwich with his brother, Edward Czaczkes. He says he was convalescing at his Madison home when his health aide, 56-year-old Edward Roy of Deep River, stole his wife's diamond and gold anniversary ring from her jewelry box and took about 60 of Czaczkes' oxycodone pain pills from the night stand.

Both items were in the master bedroom, where Czaczkes was confined for weeks after fracturing 18 bones, undergoing surgery on his left ankle and later having a portion of his lung removed. Roy was one of two health aides sent to his home by the Guilford-based VNA Community Healthcare. Czaczkes said he chatted at length with Roy, who told him he had been working for the VNA on and off for the past decade.

"He was probably the best home health aide I had," Czaczkes said. "He vacuumed. He was conscientious."

Czaczkes said he was disappointed when he discovered that Roy had gone through his family's belongings while Czaczkes was in the shower. The attorney discovered the theft on Christmas Day, when he was taking stock of his medication supply. He said he had been prescribed 90 of the 5 mg oxycodone pills and had only taken a few. Most of the pills were missing, he said.

"I told my wife, and she said to me, 'That's kind of weird. I'm missing one of the bands to my wedding ring,'" he said.

Confronted by Madison Police Sgt. Richard Perron, Roy confessed to stealing the pills and the ring and admitted he is a heroin addict, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Roy said he had consumed the medication and sold the ring.

"Roy stated that he regretted his actions of stealing and wished to cooperate with the police," the affidavit says.

Roy was charged with third-degree larceny. He is due back in court in New Haven on Thursday.

Perron ran a criminal history inquiry on Roy that showed he is a convicted felon with a history of possession and sale of narcotics and violation of probation, according to the affidavit.

"You have to question why the VNA is hiring this guy in the first place," Czaczkes said. "He's a convicted felon with a drug habit. They put him into people's houses where the drugs are plentiful and say 'Here, take care of this person.'"

Police learned that Roy had sold the ring for $163 to Yankee Jewelers in Old Saybrook and that it had been melted down and sold as scrap. A law enforcement database of pawn transactions showed eight pawn store transactions in Roy's name from January to December 2012, according to the affidavit.

Czaczkes said he and his wife were reimbursed for the ring through their insurance company but that the money did not alleviate the stress the incident had caused. A local pharmacy valued the stolen pills at $779.

Roy could not be reached for comment.

Janine Fay, president and chief executive officer of VNA Community Healthcare, wrote a letter of apology to Czaczkes that said the agency is treating the incident "very seriously."

"We have always performed criminal background checks and this employee had a clean record up until this moment," the letter states. "Patient safety is extremely important to us and we will again review all our policies and procedures regarding employment."

Public criminal record databases show two people named Edward Roy in Connecticut, both born in 1956. One has a minor history and the other has several convictions. Perron, the police sergeant, said this week that he was aware of both identities when he conducted the records check on the home health aide.

Fay, responding to an inquiry from The Day, left a phone message saying she could not discuss Roy's employment. She reiterated that the agency conducts thorough background checks.

"We do indeed, on every employee, do Connecticut and other states' background checks and arrest records, and if somebody lived in another state, we check in that other state," Fay said. "We do federal record checks as well as the Office of the Inspector General and the Connecticut Judicial Branch. That's really all I can tell you at this time."

Czaczkes has been following Roy's court case and said it may be resolved with a plea deal involving a fully suspended prison sentence and one year of probation.

"My understanding is he's going to probably get a walk," said Czaczkes. "That's what really kind of infuriated me, and the VNA didn't really take responsibility for the guy."

The New Haven prosecutor who is handling the case could not be reached for comment.

k.florin@theday.com

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