Following weeks of media reports suggesting that Roxanne Wilson – wife of U.S. congressman Joe Wilson and mother of South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson – might be charged with assaulting her mother at an assisted living facility in Lexington County, a supplemental case report from the local sheriff’s department says there is no probable cause for charges.
According to the report, the case against Wilson is without “prosecutorial merit.”
The woman at the center of the controversy is something of a political diva, having been referred to previously as “one of the staunchest and toughest Republican women in South Carolina.”
In recent months, Roxanne Wilson has been involved in a dispute with her mother’s assisted living facility, Presbyterian Communities of South Carolina, over the level of care required for 98-year-old Martha Dusenbury. The battle resulted in the filing of a civil suit by Wilson and her twin sister against the facility.
The incident in question occurred at Presbyterian Communities’ Lexington, S.C. facility on September 29, 2023. Arriving at the facility to see her mother, Wilson was informed that Dusenbury – who suffers from dementia – would not take her medicine and kept spitting it out. Taking matters into her own hands, Wilson used a fork to put the wet pills into her mother’s mouth and compelled her to take a drink of water that staff members say choked Dusenbury.
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They reported this incident to a supervisor – and the sheriff’s office was called to investigate an alleged assault.
However, according to the incident report made available to FITSNews, the reenactment of the incident provided by facility employees did not meet the definition of abuse.
During the response by law enforcement, a facility employee claimed Wilson assaulted her when she touched her shoulders and said something to her – but having witnessed the conversation in question investigators dismissed that claim.
Interestingly, both parties referenced the recent lawsuit as the source of the friction …
THE CIVIL SUIT …
According to the complaint (.pdf) filed in Lexington County, facility administrators have been threatening to remove or evict Dusenbury for several months. The first attempt occurred “some time ago” and after a lengthy meeting, plans for an eviction were abandoned. Then, on June 26, 2023, a letter of eviction was presented indicating Dusenbury would need to either leave the facility or be transferred to a skilled nursing unit.
Dusenbury’s doctor said he believed such a move would be detrimental, and on July 14, 2023, the eviction was withdrawn. However, the issue was revived again within a month when the facility presented another eviction letter on August 9, 2023.
In response, Dusenbury and her daughters filed the civil suit on August 16, 2023 – seeking an injunction allowing Dusenbury to remain in her room as long as she wanted to and for as long as her daughters believed it was in her best interest.
The civil case was dismissed on August 30, 2023 for lack of jurisdiction and the plaintiffs were advised of the grievance procedure before the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) and further adjudication by the S.C. Administrative Law Court (SCALC).
ASSISTED LIVING V. SKILLED NURSING
The assisted living versus skilled nursing debate is a common one for families coping with long term care for a loved one with dementia – a condition which can be accompanied by such issues as wandering, medication resistance and problems with eating.
Bottom line? Assisted living residents have more abilities and more freedom – and less supervision. Residents of skilled nursing facilities are more closely monitored so any critical health care needs can be addressed immediately. Not surprisingly, the price point for receiving skilled nursing care is much higher. Advanced daily care – and access to medical personnel trained to handle all of the complications of aging – comes at a price, one advocate for Alzheimer’s patients explained.
“My guess is the reason they wanted to move her is they are having difficulty getting her to take her medicine,” the advocate said. “Patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s have trouble eating, drinking and swallowing and that can happen at any stage of their illness. That’s something that skilled nursing facilities know how to handle.”
The expert we consulted – while knowledgeable on the topic – asked to remain anonymous to avoid getting ensnared in the contentious political rhetoric over the situation. She said Roxanne Wilson never should have been in the position of having to administer the medication for her mother.
Consulting the DHEC files for grievances filed against this facility, one of four filed in the past three years was over a similar situation. The facility administration tried to force a family to move a loved one from assisted living to skilled nursing or face eviction.
THE INCIDENT REPORT …
Because of the reluctance of the sheriff’s office to release information about the incident to the media, there has been significant speculation as to imminent criminal charges for Roxanne Wilson. There has also been speculation as to whether her son, as the state’s chief prosecutor, would have final oversight of his mother’s case.
In such a hyper-charged political environment, Roxanne Wilson was effectively accused of elder abuse in the court of public opinion long before the details emerged – and found guilty in the minds of many.
The redacted report released this week makes it clear no charges will be coming out of the events of September 29 – a conclusion reached by the sheriff’s office, the solicitor’s office and a magistrate judge.
When sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene in response to reports of an elderly woman being abused by her daughter, they initially spoke to two witnesses – medical technicians who said they observed Wilson screaming and cursing at her mother, putting the medicine in her mother’s mouth with a fork and then pouring water down her throat “until she was pretty much gagging.”
Arriving at the room occupied by Dusenbury, mother and daughter were found to be quiet and calm. Investigators spoke briefly with Dusenbury. Officers explained the incident to her the way it had been presented to them and asked her if it was true.
She replied, “no.”
Likewise, when responding officers explained to Roxanne Wilson that they were there to investigate an alleged assault having to do with her forcibly putting medicine and water into her mother’s mouth, Wilson stated she “never did such a thing.”
At this point, Wilson became agitated and called sheriff Jay Koon. She also threatened to take legal action against the facility. Wilson was advised the facility’s administrators wanted to ban her from the site. However, she insisted on staying at the facility until her mother’s caregiver arrived.
THE REENACTMENT …
In order to get a better understanding of what the facility’s medical technicians claimed to have observed, deputies asked them to demonstrate Wilson’s actions with her mother.
“Mrs. Wilson was then described as using a fork to transfer the wet medication back into her mother’s mouth. The way Mrs. Wilson was described using the fork does not appear to be unusual, extreme, or negligent in nature, as the fork was simply used to re-administer the medication because it was wet.”
Wilson’s actions, as reenacted by staff, were deemed to have been “decisive” – but not an example of assault or abuse.
“Even as described by the staff, the actions described don’t appear excessive from a reasonable perspective,” one investigator noted.
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The report further noted the med techs who observed the alleged abuse left the room immediately – leaving Dusenbury alone with Wilson.
“If there were concerns about Mrs. Dusenbury’s safety, it seems unusual that law enforcement was not notified immediately, and it seems equally unusual that Wilson was left alone with Mrs. Dusenbury,” investigators noted.
Indeed, Wilson was left alone with Dusenbury for approximately ninety minutes after the alleged assault occurred – and prior to investigators arriving on the scene.
This news outlet was told video footage of the incident may exist, however the Lexington County sheriff’s office report indicated those reports were false.
“Deputies asked about any camera footage but (were) told that there (was) no camera footage from inside the room,” the report noted.
Roxanne Wilson is clearly no shrinking violet. A Daughter of the American Revolution and two-time delegate to the GOP’s national convention, her reputation as a force in Palmetto political circles has long preceded her.
Wilson has been quick to speak up on behalf of her family, too. In 2009, after her husband yelled “You lie!” at former U.S. president Barack Obama during an address on Capitol Hill, Wilson took to YouTube to defend her husband saying, “he doesn’t deserve the treatment he is getting.”
So far, though, neither she nor her family members have commented on the incident.
Stay tuned to this media outlet in the event there are any additional developments in this case. We have reached out to the Wilson family and the Presbyterian Communities network – and extended our open microphone to both – in the event they wish to share their perspectives on this situation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Callie Lyons is a journalist, researcher, and author whose investigative work can be found in media outlets, publications, and documentaries all over the world – most recently in the Parisian newspaper Le Monde and a German documentary for ProSieben. Lyons also appears in Citizen Sleuth – a 2023 documentary exploring the genre of true crime.
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