TRAVERSE CITY — A man on parole for manslaughter and living on the grounds of an adult foster care facility was arrested after he was accused of molesting a developmentally disabled resident.
Jay Jeffry Stewart, 62, was arrested Sept. 12 at Green Acres, 127 Potter Road, after a female resident, 63, who suffers from severe anxiety, speech impairment and has a cognitive disorder, told a family member she was assaulted.
The woman was repeatedly assaulted over several months, Green Acres staff knew of the assaults and did not stop them, according to a Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs investigation report.
Sarah Miner, owner of Green Acres, said staff reported the incident as soon as they became aware of it and that all of her residents are safe.
“I would put my mother there,” Miner said, in a phone interview. “I’ve lived there. My kids have lived there. Everyone is safe. What I will say is, I’ve only had two issues in 30 years of doing this. The world has changed. This last year has been tough.”
The LARA report states Stewart was placed at Green Acres by the Michigan Department of Corrections. Chris Gautz, the department’s spokesman, confirmed MDOC had placed Stewart at 127 Potter Road and paid for his housing.
Miner said she no longer accepts parolees in her independent living apartments, had considered evicting Stewart prior to LARA’s investigation, but had not yet filed the paperwork.
“Resident A has had her breast fondled by a male resident on numerous occasions over a four-month period,” wrote licensing consultant, Bruce A. Messer, in his special investigation report dated Oct. 15. “Staff had knowledge of this and did not respond properly to stop this behavior.”
Messer was not authorized to speak publicly about the incident.
LARA spokesman Jay Calwarts confirmed parolees are sometimes placed by the MDOC in AFC facilities, and that licensees are required to assure the safety of all their residents, regardless of history.
Calwarts, LARA’s Division Director for AFC homes, said if a parolee was living on the grounds of a facility, but not in the facility itself, the licensee would not be required to inform his office.
Family members researching placements currently have no way of knowing whether a facility accepts parolees, though providing such information was something Calwarts said the department might consider.
“Obviously if you’re taking in residents from MDOC, there is an inherent risk to it,” Calwarts said. “It’s up to each facility to ensure the safety of their residents.”
LARA employs 55 licensing consultants in its AFC division, who investigate reports of violations and complete initial and renewal inspections at 4,300 facilities, Calwarts said.
“We depend on the public to report things, otherwise a facility may only be seen every two years,” he said.
Stewart came to the attention of law enforcement when the woman’s family member contacted a Green Acres employee, Kristina Lynne Gerring, who then contacted the sheriff’s department.
Gerring told Central Dispatch she was aware of a previous incident between Stewart and the female resident, which had occurred “a few months ago,” according to the Sheriff’s Department’s Sept. 13 incident report.
Gerring declined comment.
Stewart was booked into the Grand Traverse County’s jail Sept. 13 and is currently being housed in the Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center in Jackson.
At the time of his arrest, Stewart was on parole from Wexford County, after serving 10 years of an 8- to 15-year sentence for manslaughter and a felony firearms charge. Stewart pleaded no contest.
The victim was his wife, according to Wexford County court files.
Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg authorized three charges of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct with force or coercion, against Stewart Oct. 10 and filed a habeas writ Nov. 8 seeking his return to face charges in Grand Traverse County.
The woman’s guardian, Mike Smith, petitioned and received an ex parte personal protection order against Stewart from 13th Circuit Court Family Division Court Referee, Stacey Truesdell on Sept. 13.
Messer’s report stated he interviewed facility manager Savannah Thompson, who said Stewart was not a resident of the facility but lived on the property in an “independent living” apartment. She told Messer he would sneak into the facility at night.
Once Thompson learned of this, she told Messer she “banned” Stewart from the AFC home.
“Ms. Thompson stated that Resident A told her that she was told by Mr. Stewart ‘not to say anything because he would go to jail.’ Ms. Thompson stated that no staff knew this was going on and she does not know how many times this might have occurred.”
Once staff members were informed, Thompson told Messer, the police were called and Stewart was arrested.
Miner agreed. She said following the arrest, she helped facilitate extra one-on-one counseling for the woman and that she is doing well.
That timing differs from Messer’s documented findings and from the PPO application Smith filed.
“Approximately 4 months ago (Resident A) had disclosed to me that a guy was touching her private parts and she didn’t like it,” Smith wrote to the court.
“I contacted Green Acres staff to inform them of this.”
“The staff confirmed that (Resident A) had been observed sitting on a man’s lap. I stated this behavior was inappropriate and I wanted (Resident A) kept safe. The staff agreed and stated they would keep them separate.
“During recent months, (Resident A) has told me on several occasions ‘When somebody does something wrong nobody gets in trouble, they just keep doing it.’ I attempted to ask more information on this. (Resident A) was very vague in her responses and was reluctant to share specific details. I believe Jay had been sexually assaulting her during the past four months.”
Smith did not return a call for comment.
Messer states in his report that the resident told several people of the assault including her legal guardian, Green Acres staff and a Community Mental Health worker.
Adult Protective Services worker Traci Doran reported the accusations to LARA on Oct. 2.
Messer investigated, corroborated the accounts, and conducted what his report called “an exit conference” with Miner. In this meeting he required Miner to submit something LARA calls a “correction action plan” — standard in any license violation — within 15 days.
As long as the action plan was acceptable, Messer recommended the status of Green Acres’ license remain unchanged.
Calwarts said he could not speak about specific facilities or investigations. In general, he said, a corrective action plan following a sexual assault by a parolee would include increased staff, increased security and a promise to no longer accept MDOC parolees.
“We’re going to want something in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Calwarts said.
Miner said that is exactly what she submitted.
Green Acres is an adult congregate facility, licensed by the state to care for up to 32 adults who are aged, developmentally disabled, mentally ill and/or physically handicapped. Residents pay $884.50 per month.
“The majority of our clients at Green Acres and Tower Hill (another facility owned by Miner) have no family. None,” Miner said. “If we didn’t have a place for them here, 100 percent of them would be be homeless. They don’t have anywhere else to go.”
The facility opened in 1984 under the name “Green Field Farms,” with Firebaugh AFC Inc. listed as owner. According to LARA, Pearson Inc. assumed ownership in 2010 and since that time has received several licensing violations.
Special Investigation reports are kept for three years and licensing inspection reports are kept for five years, so any records kept prior to the ownership change would be “out of LARA’s retention schedule,” Calwarts said.
Miner’s other AFC home, Tower Hill AFC, 8810 E. Traverse Hwy., is a more specialized facility in operation since 1996 and licensed for up to 12 developmentally disabled, mentally ill or aged residents.
Beginning April 17 and ending June 16, Tower Hill was the site of an extensive LARA investigation by licensing consultant Rhonda Richards.
Richards determined there was “a preponderance of evidence” Tower Hill staff member Tawny Thompson smoked crack cocaine with a resident, but both Miner and Thompson dispute that.
According to Richards’ special investigation report, the staff member and the resident smoked a “chore” of crack immediately before the resident’s physical therapy appointment on or about March 1.
Following the appointment, the resident said she and Thompson went to the Sail Inn where the resident had a “double shot of Fireball” whiskey on the rocks and the staff member ordered a “captain and coke.”
The resident told a LARA licensing consultant the pair “drove to pick up other residents” before returning to Tower Hill, though Thompson, Miner’s daughter, says the series of events didn’t happen.
“Everybody has a past but this is not mine,” Thompson said. “We were all kind of baffled when this came out. Recipient Rights never confirmed this. I was never criminally charged. So that’s a lot to put on my name when none of it happened.”
Recipient Rights is the investigatory arm of Northern Lakes Community Mental Health, which provides services to some residents of area AFC homes. A call to NLCMH CEO Karl Kovacs on Friday wasn’t returned.
Tawny Thompson told Richards she’d had a clean drug test at the Department of Health and Human Services the day of the supposed cocaine use, but Richards wrote she’d contacted DHHS and found no record of any such test.
Richards also determined a Tower Hill “vulnerable resident” was left alone in a facility van with the engine running while Thompson shopped in an area dollar store.
Thomson said she did go shopping and the resident did wait in the van, but it should not have been viewed by LARA as a license violation.
“She’s her own guardian and can make her own choices,” Thompson said. “I invited her to go in the store with me but she chose not to.”
Richards required Miner submit a corrective action plan for the Tower Hill violations, and also modified the facility’s license from regular to provisional.
Regular licenses are reviewed every two years; provisional licenses are reviewed every six months.
During a conference call with Miner, Tower Hill Administrator Leah Marino-Fitch and a Record-Eagle reporter, Miner said the corrective action plan had been submitted and accepted.
It included adding a visitor’s log, requiring all visitors sign in and monitoring visitors more closely. Thompson said she quit her job the day the complaints were made and misses the work and her clients.
“I enjoyed it, they (the clients) were like my family, it’s my favorite job in the whole world,” Thompson said. “Since that happened my life has done a complete 180.”
Green Acres also had additional violations.
In July, residents of Green Acres had to be evacuated after one resident died, another was hospitalized and carbon monoxide poisoning was suspected.
The medical examiner determined the cause of death to be heart attack and the cause of hospitalization septic shock, though the facility received numerous citations from Blair Township Fire Inspector Mike Monger.
According to LARA documents, Green Acres was cited for a faulty stove and clothes dryer, flawed oxygen tank storage, improper extension cord usage, broken shower tiles, water damaged ceiling tiles and damaged drywall.
Licensing consultant Matthew Soderquist required Miner to submit a corrective action plan and upon receipt recommended the license for Green Acres remain unchanged.
Green Acres’ license is up for renewal inspection April 20, 2021; Tower Hill was inspected Nov. 15 and Marino-Fitch said the facility’s license was taken off provisional status and returned to regular active status with no corrections needed.