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Potential victims of Asante drug diversion could be higher than indictment count

A building with a ramp leading up. A sign over the ramp says, "Emergency Emergencia" In the background is a 5-story building, a sign at the top says, "Asante"
Roman Battaglia
JPR News
The entrance to the emergency department at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford, January 4, 2024.

Medford police arrested a former nurse at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center last week for allegedly causing serious infections in 44 of her patients. The number of possible victims in the case may be higher. 

Officials with the Medford Police Department say Dani Marie Schofield is suspected of replacing her patients’ liquid fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, with non-sterile tap water and causing dozens of potentially deadly bloodstream infections.

According to a grand jury indictment, those infections occurred between July of 2022 and July 2023. But a lawyer working on civil suits related to the case said more victims could fall outside of that timeframe.

Shayla Steyart, an attorney with Medford-based Shlesinger & deVilleneuve, said her firm is investigating around a dozen cases that happened either before or after the year in which police focused their accusations.

“What we still don't have answers to is what criteria did the hospital and detectives use to determine victims?” said Steyart. ”So if they're saying that it's this one-year window, well to play devil's advocate – how do you know?”

Her firm hasn’t filed any suits yet. But another wrongful death complaint names a potential victim, Horace Wilson, who died five months prior to the authority's timeline. According to court documents, Wilson was admitted to Asante with an injury from a fall in January of 2022. The suit claims Schofield was recorded giving fentanyl to Wilson through infusion. Wilson’s blood cultures soon tested positive for bacteria and his health quickly deteriorated. He died in February of 2022.

But Wilson isn’t one of the alleged 44 victims named in the indictment against Schofield.

“The charges in the indictment represent the charges that the evidence can support in a criminal proceeding,” said Jackson County Deputy District Attorney Patrick Green via email when asked about how authorities chose their timeline.

A spokesperson for Asante wouldn’t comment about whether the number of possible victims in the case could be greater than those listed in the indictment.

At a press conference last week, Medford Police Chief Justin Ivens said 16 of the 44 patients named in the indictment died. Authorities said they only charged Schofield with Assault in the 2nd Degree because they couldn’t prove those deaths were directly caused by hospital infections.

Dani Marie Schofield pleaded not guilty to the 44 charges of felony assault last Friday. Each of those counts carries a minimum sentence of 70 months under Oregon’s Measure 11 if convicted.

Justin Higginbottom is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. He's worked in print and radio journalism in Utah as well as abroad with stints in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. He spent a year reporting on the Myanmar civil war and has contributed to NPR, CNBC and Deutsche Welle (Germany’s public media organization).