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Civil trial under way in disappearance from Bellaire retirement home

Updated: Tuesday, May 6 2014, 06:05 PM EDT
BELMONT COUNTY, Ohio -- It was a 2010 search that ended in tragedy.
Eighty-year old Luella Edge's bones and clothing were found by a civilian search party just 600 yards from her "new home" at the Country Club Retirement Campus in Bellaire.
It was a place she had been for one day and she wasn't found for seven months. Now, a jury is working to determine if someone will pay a price for her death.
There are still discrepancies on how Edge eluded her caretakers that day.
 "We don't know what happened," Edge's daughter said Tuesday inside the Belmont County Courthouse.
Edge was found months after an initial search, circulated flyers, and countless phone calls all came up empty.
The family held out hope. In November, a civilian search effort through the thick brush and briars on the hillside behind the Country Club Retirement Campus made the gruesome finding they'd been looking for.
"It looked to be a human bone," Search Coordinator Steve Habursky said at the time. "We started looking around that area and then we found a skull, then we found clothing that matched Luella. We didn't want to disturb anything, so we made the call to the Sheriff's Department."
On Tuesday, more than 4 years after Edge went missing, a civil jury trial is at stake. The family is pitted against Country Club Retirement Campus, or "CCRC."
"If they had just done their job, Luella Edge would have been safe," the plaintiff's attorney, Jeff Brown, said.
Brown, representing Edge's family, described her mental health decline before being admitted to the CCRC, saying she was diagnosed by her primary physician as having Alzheimer's, anxiety, depression and paranoia.
He said Edge was resentful of the facility and her characteristics made her the "highest possible risk" for elopement.
The CCRC decided to accept her anyway.
"The CCRC told her they would take care of her, that she would be safe," he said.
Brown went on to detail the many alleged mistakes the CCRC made, all in less than 24 hours before Edge's disappearance.
"The facility failed to fulfill every single one of their obligations the first night she was there," Brown said.
Defense attorney Peter Molinecci, representing the CCRC, said it's nobody's fault.
The case comes down to the details of April 29, 2010, when Edge was first dropped off at the retirement home.
"(She) wasn't acting crazy, not severely demented," Molinecci argued.
Molinecci said the assisted living facility can't provide perfect care, only a "reasonably safe" environment.
He noted that if Edge didn't want to be there, she was going to find a way to get out.
"It all comes down to supervision," he said. "Were we properly supervising her knowing what we knew in a short amount of time?"
For both parties in this civil case, and after four years, the details of how Edge escaped her caretakers are still ambiguous.
"More than likely Luella Edge got out, wandered into the woods, died of exposure, dehydration and starvation," Molinecci said.
On Tuesday afternoon, the jury was escorted to the Country Club Retirement Campus. The purpose of that was for jurors to "get a feel" for the property's layout and to understand the evidence that is to come.
There are some reports that the trial could end as early as this week, but, of course, that can't be said for certain.

Civil trial under way in disappearance from Bellaire retirement home

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