By Alyssa Schnugg
Two employees at the Mississippi State Veterans Home of Oxford have been arrested and charged with the death of a local veteran. He died in April of last year after allegedly falling while at the veterans home.
Jeanee Dunn, 25, of Oxford was arrested July 2, and Bridget Austin, 41, of Abbeville was arrested Monday. Both were charged with manslaughter-culpable negligence and are being held at the Lafayette County Detention Center on bonds of $250,000 each.
According to the Oxford Police Department, on April 15, medical personnel from the Regional One Trauma Center in Memphis contacted police in regard to the health and welfare of World War II Veteran Durley Bratton, 93, of Oxford, who was living at the veteran’s home at the time.
The criminal investigations department led the investigation on abuse-related injuries apparently suffered by Bratton.
Dunn and Austin were identified as two persons of interest.
Bratton hadn’t lived at the Oxford home for long when he was transported to Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi with a broken hip and possible other fractures. He was then transferred to The Med in Memphis where he died Aug. 18, 2017.
Bratton’s body was taken to the Mississippi State Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy. On July 2, 2018, the autopsy results came back and ruled the death a result of blunt force injuries. Investigators filed affidavits of arrest and warrants on Dunn and Austin.
“The care of our veterans at all of our nursing homes is our utmost priority,” said Amanda May, administrator of the Oxford veterans’ nursing home. “We have been cooperating with the law enforcement officials during the investigation, but due to the nature (of the case) we cannot comment on this ongoing investigation.”
Glynna McKendree and her husband John McKendree, spend a good bit of time at the Oxford home as part of the veterans activist group, Rolling Thunder, to which John is the current president.
She says she was shocked to hear about the arrests.
“We are there all the time and it’s always clean and the staff are friendly and professional,” McKendree said. “ I will stand behind (administrator) Amanda May and the rest of the administration who do a great job.”
OPD Chief Joey East stated that he is “glad to provide some resolution for the Bratton family.”
“We cannot know their pain,” East said. “I appreciate the collaborative effort and dedication of our investigators and the county coroner’s office in this lengthy investigation.”
Lafayette County Coroner Rocky Kennedy said the reason it took longer than a year to get the autopsy report back is due to a backlog of cases in the Mississippi Medical Examiner’s Office in Pearl.
“It’s the unfortunate state of where our Medical Examiner’s Officer is right now,” Kennedy said. “We’re seeing a time lapse of 12, 14, 16 months in our cases.”
Kennedy said the State Legislature recently approved funds to hire more staff; however, he isn’t sure it will be enough to rectify the situation in any timely manner.
“You have families like Mr. Bratton’s who have to wait over a year so they can reconcile their loss of the one they love,” he said.