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More Arrests Anticipated In Hollywood Nursing Home Deaths

Law enforcement, victims families and nursing home employees in Hollywood are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma nearly two years after the storm. 

The Hollywood Police Department held a news conference Tuesday to formally announce criminal charges for four former employees of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. The charges are connected to 12 deaths following a power outage at the facility in the days that followed the hurricane. 

Former Facility Administrator Jorge Carballo and Former Night Shift Nursing Supervisor Sergo Colin each face 12 counts of aggravated manslaughter. 

Tamika Miller and Althia Meggie were nurses at the facility during the storm's aftermath. Miller faces six counts of aggravated manslaughter and three counts of tampering with patient medical records. Meggie faces two counts of aggravated manslaughter and two counts of tampering with patient medical records. 

The investigation findings were first made available to the family members of the victims during a meeting with police Monday night. 

"It was an emotional meeting, and our hearts go out to these families," Hollywood Chief of Police Chris O'Brien said. "The families sitting here today should not have lost their loved ones in this way."

O'Brien also said there will likely be more arrests to come in the future. 

"This is not the end of our investigation," he said.  "We are going to continue to proceed with our investigation, and if any additional arrests - we have the ability to make them - then they will be made."

When the nursing home lost power after Hurricane Irma struck South Florida in September of 2017, lack of air-conditioning led to soaring temperatures and  sweltering conditions inside of the nursing home. 

In the weeks that followed 14 people who were patients in the facility died of heat-related causes. Twelve of those deaths were  ruled homicides by the Broward County Medical Examiner's office. 

Read More: 'Hellish Nightmare:' Hollywood Hills Nursing Home Tragedy Continues In Court

It took Hollywood Police three weeks to process the crime scene, collecting more than 1,000 pieces of evidence. Officials from the department called the investigation one of the most extensive in the Hollywood Police Department's history. 

Police Major Steven Bolger is with Hollywood's Department of Criminal Investigations. He said over the course of two years the investigation has reviewed more than 400 hours of video evidence. 

"Fifty-five computers were seized and turned over to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for technological forensic analysis," Bolger said. "Information from these computers was instrumental…" 

One of the defense attorneys representing Jorge Carballo argues that it was Florida Power & Light, Fmr. Florida Governor Rick Scott, and the State Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) who made mistakes that led to the victims' deaths.

"They did everything they could possibly do," Attorney James Cobb said about his client, and other former employees at the center. 

"These people were there, standing their post, doing the best they could in an emergency situation. In a hurricane," Cobb said. "We were let down by Florida Power & Light. We were let down by the Governor of the state of Florida...I think we'll be able to prove the fault of other people in the chain of command."

Hollywood Police Chief O'Brien told reporters the reason that the investigation has taken nearly two years, and will continue, is because of the scope of the evidence involved. 

"Throughout this investigation, we have prioritized thoroughness accuracy over rapid resolution," O'Brien said. 

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

12 of 14 deaths at the facility were ruled homicides by the Broward County Medical Examiner in November 2017.
Charles Trainor Jr. Miami Herald / WLRN
The Florida Channel
12 of 14 deaths at the facility were ruled homicides by the Broward County Medical Examiner in November 2017.

Caitie Switalski is a rising senior at the University of Florida. She's worked for WFSU-FM in Tallahassee as an intern and reporter. When she's in Gainesville for school, Caitie is an anchor and producer for local Morning Edition content at WUFT-FM, as well as a digital editor for the station's website. Her favorite stories are politically driven, about how politicians, laws and policies effect local communities. Once she graduates with a dual degree in Journalism and English,Caitiehopes to make a career continuing to report and produce for NPR stations in the sunshine state. When she's not following what's happening with changing laws, you can catchCaitielounging in local coffee shops, at the beach, or watching Love Actually for the hundredth time.