25 Inv: Case against former Holyoke Soldiers Home Superintendent to be ‘continued without finding’

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. — A plea hearing is set for Tuesday in the case against former Holyoke Soldiers Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh in the deaths of nearly 80 veterans who died from a COVID-19 outbreak on the premises.

25 Investigates learned Monday that Superintendent Walsh is expected to ask the Court during the change of plea hearing for a ‘continuance without a finding.’ The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office is seeking a one-year sentence of home confinement with three years of probation for Walsh.

In 2021, the state charged Walsh and former medical director David Clinton with five counts of elder neglect and five counts of permitting serious bodily injury to an elder. The charges stemmed from the Soliders’ Home’s decision to merge two dementia housing units inside the building on March 27, 2020, in the early days of the pandemic.

In April 2023, Superior Court Justice Edward McDonough dismissed the charges in 2021, ruling that because the patients were exposed to COVID-19 before the merge occurred, there was not enough evidence to suggest the medical condition of five of the named veterans would have been any different.

“These people, men and women, gave up their lives for the rest of us, and they certainly need better care than what they were having there,” said Alice Lowell, whose husband died at the home.

State agrees to pay $56 million to settle with veterans who got COVID at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home

In a plea negotiation conference last Friday, the Judge signaled he would accept Walsh’s recommendation and expect the Judge to do so Tuesday, a spokesperson with the AG’s office said.

As part of Tuesday’s plea, Walsh is expected to admit that there were ‘sufficient facts’ to find him guilty of the charges, according to the AG’s office. Under the expected court-ordered terms, Walsh must not work in a nursing home, not initiate contact with the families of the victims, and not be present at the Soldiers’ Home without permission.

William Bennet, Walsh’s attorney, says he will not have any criminal record following the hearing.

Reporter Kerry Kavanaugh spoke with Susan Kenney whose father Charles Lowell died in that outbreak. She says she is devastated that this is how the criminal case will end.

“It’s just not enough. I wish he could’ve dug every grave for every veteran who passed there,” said Kenney. “Being that it’s 4 years since this has all begun... and this is the justice that we get afterward? It’s just no justice at all.”

Kenney says she will be in court Tuesday as this case likely closes.

The hearing is set for 2 p.m. Tuesday at Hampshire Superior Court.

25 Investigates learned a similar plea could also be reached with former medical director David Clinton.

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