HOWARD - It's a case that investigators say is one of the more disturbing ones they've seen.
Two former employees at a Howard assisted living facility face felony charges after being accused of recording and photographing naked residents and sharing the images.
A criminal complaint filed last week charges the two women – Michelle Bulger, 22, of Green Valley and Ashley Schaumberg, 20, of Pittsfield – with recording nudity without consent.
The complaint, filed in Brown County, identifies the alleged victims as two residents of Brookview Meadows who are in their 80s.
"They did not have any idea that they were being recorded," explained Capt. Jeff Sanborn with the Brown County Sheriff's Department.
Authorities say a Brookview Meadows employee tipped off facility ownership that, in November of last year, Michelle Bulger sent obscene photos of residents to her through a cell phone application called Snapchat.
The application allows people to take and send pictures and video to others, viewable for only a few seconds, before it's deleted.
According to the criminal complaint, the employee says she also received a photo from Ashley Schaumberg of a resident vomiting and another of a naked resident in a bathtub, sent by either Schaumberg or Bulger. The tipster says she was also shown a video by the two women, on Schaumberg's cell phone, of Bulger assisting a resident with an obstructed bowel, as Bulger gagged and covered her mouth with her shirt.
Both Schaumberg and Bulger were Certified Nursing Assistants at the 78-unit facility.
"They did it more, thinking that it was something funny, that they could share with their friends," said Sanborn, putting down any suggestions of a sexual interest. "And we obviously don't look at it that way."
Sheriff's officials say Schaumberg cooperated from the start, which is why she hasn't been booked into jail.
Bulger got a lawyer. She was booked Monday.
Sanborn says Schaumberg allowed investigators to see evidence on her phone, and technology allowed technicians to recover the deleted Snapchat messages.
Sanborn says this case isn't just upsetting for the victims and their families, but the community.
"We put our trust in (caregivers) when we take a parent or loved one to a facility like that," Sanborn said, "We just hope that they're being treated properly."
The facility's owner, Peggy Besaw did not want to go on camera with FOX 11. She says Schaumberg and Bulger were suspended upon learning of the incident and terminated shortly thereafter. Besaw did release a statement to FOX 11.
It says, in part:
"Brookview Meadows has long believed that the safety and privacy of its residents are its top priority. To that end, where a violation of resident privacy is concerned, Brookview Meadows practices a ‘zero tolerance' policy. In the matter at hand, Brookview Meadows acted promptly and went well-beyond what is required by law to investigate and address the violations of resident privacy and to punish and seek the prosecution of the wrongdoers."
It goes on to say both employees were carefully screened, had clean criminal records and were certified by the state. State nursing records show neither had any record of abuse or neglect.
Bulger was released from Brown County Jail after posting $1,000 bond.
Both Schaumberg and Bulger have court appearances later this month.
Each woman faces three felony counts, and each count carries a maximum penalty of 3 ½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
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