Manse on Marsh owner sentenced to six months in jail

Christopher Skiff

The owner of the Manse on Marsh, who was convicted of manslaughter and elderly dependent abuse over the 2014 death of a dementia patient, received a six-month jail sentence on Friday.

Christopher Skiff, 54, faced up to eight years in prison for his convictions. But, Judge Craig Van Rooyen sentenced him to six months in jail and five years of probation for his convictions stemming from an incident in which the dementia patient walked away from the San Luis Obispo assisted living facility and was struck and killed by a car.

In Dec. 2014, Mauricio Edgar Cardenas, 65, was attempting to cross Los Osos Valley Road in Los Osos when he was hit and killed by a 2010 Dodge Challenger. The CHP determined the driver was unable to avoid Cardenas because of the darkness at the location he was crossing.

A few months later, state investigators raided the Manse on Marsh, as first reported by CalCoastNews. Then in July 2017, the California Attorney General’s Office charged Skiff and Gary Potts, 63, with involuntary manslaughter and elderly dependent abuse. Potts, a former employee of the elderly care facility, is being tried separately from Skiff.

Prosecutors alleged the Manse on Marsh admitted Cardenas as a resident, even though he had a dementia diagnosis and the facility lacked a waiver to handle such patients. The Manse on Marsh had previously been cited several times for admitting residents for whom it was not licensed to provide care, and former employees have said there were numerous dementia-diagnosed residents at the facility.

During Skiff’s trial, prosecutors argued the Manse on Marsh owner ordered his staff to urge a doctor to reevaluate Cardenas, who was eventually admitted to the facility with a recorded primary diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment. The prosecution called to the stand several former employees who testified Skiff was very engaged in the operations of the facility and sales and that he told a nurse to urge a doctor to change Cardenas’ dementia diagnosis.

Former employees testified that Skiff and Manse on Marsh staffers had daily meeting in which they discussed a “hot list” of prospective residents who had medical and other barriers to admission and created action plans on how to get the individuals admitted. Former employees also testified that they expressed concern to Skiff over Cardenas being on the hot list, but shortly later, he was admitted to the Manse on Marsh anyway. 

Skiff testified in his own defense that he only learned of Cardenas’ dementia after the man’s death and that Cardenas’ name was added to the hot list at the request of his family. The jury convicted Skiff after three days of deliberation.

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