Ohio high court upholds 65-year prison term in thefts from nursing homes, assisted living facilities

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld a 65-year prison term imposed on a central Ohio woman who pleaded guilty to stealing jewelry and other valuables from several dozen elderly residents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Former nurse’s aide Susan Gwynne pleaded guilty in 2016 to 46 of 101 charges, including burglary, theft and receiving stolen property. As part of a plea deal, she acknowledged stealing jewelry, watches and other items from residents of senior living facilities.

Gwynne told the judge she began stealing items from patients’ rooms to support her cocaine habit while working as a nurse at an assisted living facility in 2004. She said she was later fired but kept going to facilities in Delaware County and Franklin County in her uniform and stealing from rooms. Investigators found more than 3,000 items at her home.

The high court's decision Wednesday follows a tangled history of appeals.

The trial court imposed consecutive sentences, saying "no single prison term" would be adequate given the serious offenses. In 2017, the Fifth District Court of Appeals overturned the sentence, citing Gwynne's age and status as a nonviolent first-time offender. It said a 15-year prison term was appropriate.

The high court reversed that decision in 2019 and told the appeals court to reconsider. The lower court then upheld the 65-year term, saying it had no authority to modify the consecutive sentences.

The state Supreme Court voted 4-3 in December to send the case back for reconsideration again. But in January — after control of the high court shifted parties — it voted 4-3 to reconsider its own decision.

Last week, a divided high court ruled that the consecutive terms were properly imposed.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that Gwynne, now 62 and incarcerated at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, isn't scheduled for release until 2081.