Documents show home health aide accused of murder legally obtained license

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- As multiple investigations into a home health aide's employment history move forward, FOX59 started looking into the accused woman's state license.

Prosecutors charged Kiesha Summerhill, 18, and Arion Cruthird, 19, with the murder of Summerhill's former client, Alice Wright, this week.

Wright, who took care of her aging and disabled husband, died brutally in the couple's Brownsburg home. Detectives allege Summerhill and Cruthird went to the home intending to rob the couple, then murdered Wright when they believed she recognized Summerhill.

The case has already left many wondering how it could happen. Ken Bennett, Executive Director of the Center for At-Risk Elders and a longtime elder care lawyer, told FOX59 he has many questions.

"It would give anybody pause," Bennett said. "A tragic case and everyone’s scratching their heads to figure out well, how did this happen and what can we do to prevent that? Or what precautions might be taken?"

FOX59 has learned that Brownsburg police are actively investigating Summerhill's employment history.

According to court documents, Wright's family told police that the couple had hired Summerhill through the VA. That agency confirmed to FOX59 this week that Summerhill worked for a contracted home health agency until November 2017, but was not an employee of the VA.

As part of a public records request, FOX59 obtained Summerhill's application for a state home health aide license. The application is dated April 28, 2017, eight days after Summerhill turned 18. She received a license just days later, on May 1.

On the application, the Hardon Educational Institute signed off on Summerhill's training. The organization contracts with various groups for nurse's aid training, and Summerhill reportedly attended training at a federal JobCorps site in Indianapolis.

Hardon Educational Institute did not respond to FOX59's questions, instead sending this statement:

"We send our deepest condolences to the family and community of Mrs. Alice Wright. The allegations surrounding her death are horrific. While our company provided short-term healthcare training to Ms. Summerhill, we do not, and have not, had an employment relationship with her. We offer short-term healthcare career training throughout the city of Indianapolis. We follow standards, regulations and guidelines as set forth by the governing agencies. Again, our thoughts and prayers are with Mrs. Wright's family, friends and community during this difficult time."

The VA has denied FOX59's request it release the name of the provider which employed Summerhill. Brownsburg Police say that is something they're also investigating.

Making matters more complicated, the state appears to have two different spellings of Summerhill's first name on record.

As for Summerhill's license, it appears to meet state standards. The State Department of Health said Indiana does not have an age requirement to obtain a license, and it would've been the responsibility of Summerhill's employer to complete a background check no later than three days after she started work.

In 2016, Indiana changed its law to do away with limited background checks and require enhanced or federal background checks by employers of home health aides. It's unclear whether a background check would have revealed anything on Summerhill's record, however.

Meanwhile, the VA has said it is conducting its own investigation.

"At this time we are initiating an investigation into the welfare of veterans currently serviced by this provider. Should we find any cause for concern about the safety and welfare of the veteran, his home and family, we will address that concern immediately," a spokesperson said in a statement this week.

Bennett said he hoped to see more answers in this case, including what, if any, support and training Summerhill's employer may have offered.

"I don’t know that regulation’s the answer to all of these issues, but I think that this is the type of case that should cause policymakers to reflect on, where are we in regulating this industry?" Bennett said.