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Ill. nurse's assistant charged in freezing death

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[March 04, 2009]  WHEATON (AP) -- A nurse's assistant faces felony charges of criminal neglect in the death of an 89-year-old woman whose frozen body was found in a snowbank outside her nursing home, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Heidi Leon, 23, of Bensenville, was named in five felony counts in connection with Sarah Wentworth's death at The Arbor of Itasca.

Wentworth left the nursing home in extremely cold weather on Feb. 5 and was found dead in a snowbank in the courtyard, DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett said.

Leon did not check on residents after Wentworth's exit triggered a door alarm, and she also lied to police, he said.

"The death of Sarah Wentworth was not an accident," Birkett said. "If these allegations are proven true ... Heidi Leon failed to provide that care and in doing so took a beloved matriarch from her family."

It was not immediately clear if Leon had an attorney. A woman who answered the phone at a listing for Heidi Leon in Bensenville said Leon was not there Tuesday evening.

Leon is charged with two counts of felony criminal neglect of a long-term care facility resident, two counts of felony criminal neglect of an elderly person and one count of obstructing justice.

Wentworth's family has filed a lawsuit against the facility alleging gross neglect in her death. The nursing home has said it is cooperating with the Illinois Department of Public Health and local authorities.

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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