Norwich Police charge man with attempted sex assault of dying woman

Norwich Police have charged a 56-year-old homeless man with attempting to sexually assault a terminally ill 88-year-old woman in April 2013 while both of them were patients at the Regency Heights Convalescent Home on Crouch Street.

Michael J. Sapia was charged Jan. 30 with attempted fourth-degree sexual assault and second-degree breach of peace. Witnesses told police Sapia went into the room of a woman who was receiving end-of-life care and closed the door. A nurse’s aid who entered the room found Sapia standing next to the victim’s bed with his pants and underwear around his ankles. The alleged victim’s hospital gown was pulled down, exposing a breast, and her diaper was partially unfastened and folded over, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Sapia was scheduled for arraignment today in New London Superior Court, but was hospitalized for an undisclosed illness. Sapia is currently admitted to the William W. Backus Hospital, according to prosecutor Theresa Anne Ferryman, who said he has a history of health problems. It is unknown whether the alleged victim has since died.

Convalescent home staff placed Sapia on constant supervision after the April 26, 2013 incident and called police, according to the affidavit. The alleged victim, taken to the hospital for an evaluation, had a red mark on her exposed arm but exhibited no other signs of sexual assault or trauma. An officer attempted to interview the elderly patient, but she was unable to respond except to reach for his hand. She was unable to speak and was not oriented to her surroundings, according to the affidavit. She could turn her head and lift her arms but did not have the strength to move the rest of her body.

Questioned about the incident, Sapia changed his story multiple times, according to police. He said he heard a loud noise coming from the woman’s room, went to check on her and saw that her “johnny” was falling off. He later said it was possible he walked across the hall to the woman’s room with his underwear around his ankles. Asked to complete a written statement, he changed his story again, saying he was sleeping in his room when he heard the woman sleeping. He said he walked across the hallway to check on her and found her with her hospital gown “a little ways down” and her hands on her neck and chest. He said he asked if she was OK and she nodded, “yes.”

A staff member told police that two days before the incident, Sapia had been caught standing in the woman’s room in just his underwear and had been warned not to enter the woman’s room again without pants “as this may be misinterpreted and it was not his responsibility to check on her.”

Should Sapia be released from the hospital, he would be turned over to the Department of Correction, since he is being held in lieu of $50,000 bond. His next court date is Feb. 24. Court records indicate that Sapia has pending charges of second-degree breach of peace and second-degree failure to appear in Superior Court in Manchester.

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