Man allegedly held pillow over dementia patient’s face

Henry “Hal” Woolner appeared in court Friday afternoon

Mugshot of Henry Woolner, 21, Oct. 20, 2017. (MCSO)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A 21-year-old man, who is in the process of becoming a certified nursing assistant in Oregon, is under criminal investigation for allegedly holding a pillow over a man’s face and restricting his breathing.

KOIN 6 News confirmed that Henry “Hal” Woolner was employed at the Gracelen Terrace Long Term Care Facility, which is based in Southeast Portland.

The victim is a 67-year-old dementia patient “who is not able to speak or articulate events,” according to a criminal affidavit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

According to the affidavit, an employee at Gracelen Terrace walked into the dementia patient’s room and “saw [Woolner] holding a pillow over the face of the victim.”

“[Woolner] was pressing down on the pillow with both hands on the side of the pillow [and the] victim’s face was in the middle of the pillow,” according to court documents.

The witness told investigators that the man was struggling, making noises and trying to move his head from under the pillow.

“The more noise [the] victim made, the more pressure defendant placed on the pillow,” according to court documents. “[Woolner] had the pillow very tight over victim’s face.”

The affidavit stated that there was no pillow under the victim, as his head was resting on the mattress. The bed was raised up high so that Woolner did not have to lean down too far to apply pressure.

The witness told investigators that she was “shocked” to see what was happening. She yelled out at Woolner who “appeared surprised.” He reportedly tossed the pillow into the air, fluffed it and placed it on the victim’s chest. Woolner said he was “just messing around,” according to court documents.

After the incident, the other employee told investigators the victim’s forehead and neck had a red mark.

She said his face was “extremely red” and that he was gasping for air, according to court documents.

Later that evening, the victim was examined by a nurse who reported the man had bruises on his forehead and a slight bruise on the lower part of his neck, court documents show.

When Woolner spoke with police, he said he briefly placed the pillow over the victim’s face while he was putting down the victim’s dentures. Woolner said he used the pillow as a barrier against the victim because, he claimed, the victim could be aggressive, according to court documents.

When Woolner was arraigned on Oct. 9, he was only charged with one count of felony strangulation.

Recently, a grand jury reviewed evidence in the case and charged Woolner with felony strangulation, attempted 2nd-degree assault and attempted criminal mistreatment.

His criminal defense attorney John Gutbezahl declined to comment when reached via e-mail Friday morning.

Barbara Holtry, communications manager for Oregon State Board of Nursing said in an e-mail that Woolner has applied for certification, but his application has not yet been approved by the board. Federal law allowed licensed nursing facilities to hire nursing assistants before they’ve been certified, provided that they get their certification within 4 months of being hired.

The compliance officer for Gracelen Terrace, Daniel Glidden, said in an e-mail that facility is unable to comment on resident or personnel matters.

Woolner posted bail shortly after his arrest. He has remained out of custody ever since.

Woolner appeared in Multnomah County Circuit Court Friday afternoon where he pleaded not guilty to strangulation and attempt to commit a Class B felony.