DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. - A registered nurse is facing assault charges after home videos surfaced of her mistreating a disabled child under her care.
Angela Vonnida, 34, of Elizabeth, Colorado, has been charged with two counts of third-degree assault of an at-risk victim, a Class 6 felony.
The victim’s parents contacted KUSA and wanted to share the videos as a cautionary tale of what could happen with a caretaker, suggesting people with loved ones who can’t speak for themselves get cameras in the home to make sure everything is going well.
Aislinn Shelley is 10-years-old with a cognitive ability of a 6-month-old.
“There’s an intellectual delay, there is a physical delay,” her mom, Michelle Shelley said.
Michelle said doctors can’t tell her what Aislinn will be able to do in the future. She was diagnosed with this condition at 7 years old after extensive genetic testing.
“She will write her own story, it’s relatively new to the medical industry,” Michelle said.
The family hired Vonnida from an agency, interviewed her and trained her for two weeks.
“You reinforce things over a six-week period and to find that they were assaulting your child is sickening, it’s scary and it causes sleepless nights,” Michelle said.
At some point over the summer, Michelle started noticing bruising on Aislinn. She checked out the video from the cameras the family installed a couple of years ago.
DISCLAIMER: The following video from inside Aislinn Shelley’s home may be difficult for some viewers to watch.
“She has a greater responsibility, she’s trained, she’s a professional in this field,” David Shelley, Aislinn’s father said. “There is no way you can define any of that [actions captured on video] as care.
The family provided the videos to prosecutors from the 18th Judicial District. Vonnida was charged this summer.
A hearing when she gets to plead guilty or not guilty is scheduled for Monday.
“I think a fair punishment is a felony charge -- multiple felony charges,” David said. “I think she should do a little bit of prison time. Aislinn is an at-risk juvenile. She had no defenses against this woman.”
Aislinn’s parents also want Vonnida’s nursing license to be permanently revoked.
Vonnida’s license is suspended and could be revoked after a hearing with the Board of Nursing next spring. If revoked, the findings will be included in a public Board Order available to any regulatory body should Vonnida apply for a license in Colorado or another state.
The discipline is also reported to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing system.
In Colorado, a mere conviction of a felony or a misdemeanor would not prevent Vonnida or anyone with a similar record from obtaining a nursing license.
The Colorado Board of Nursing makes a decision after looking at all the information in each complaint.
The Colorado State Board of Nursing is one of 14 states that doesn’t require background checks, according to the Colorado Nurses Association.
“I think that needs to be changed,” the Shelleys said. “It’s terrifying.”
Before these charges, Vonnida didn’t have a criminal history in Colorado.
Executive Director of the Colorado Nurses Association Colleen Casper, told KUSA that the CNA supports background checks for RN licensure for patient protection.
“CNA is currently exploring options for this requirement with other Colorado healthcare providers. The preferred and most reliable method for background checks would include fingerprinting that could be linked with Colorado and Federal Bureau's of Investigation to identify applicants past criminal behavior and ensure patient safety,” Casper wrote in an email. “Many employers in the State of Colorado currently require background checks for employment.”
According to the Department of Regulatory Agencies, Division of Professions and Occupations, a nurse who had his or her license revoked, can apply for a new one after two years. The Board of Nursing would have the revocation information and would consider “all available information as part of the application process including any information that may demonstrate rehabilitation as required by Colorado law.”
The Shelleys are counting on their home cameras to protect Aislinn in the future and the criminal justice system to protect others from this experience.
Vonnida has not been convicted and her version of the events are not represented in this story, as she declined to speak to KUSA.