Home Nursing job A former nurse is under house arrest | News, Sports, Jobs

A former nurse is under house arrest | News, Sports, Jobs


HOLLIDAYSBURG — A former UPMC Altoona registered nurse will spend six months under house arrest with electronic monitoring to begin what will be seven years of probation for stealing narcotics from the hospital.

Dena Jo Pacifico, 40, of Altoona, was sentenced in Blair County Court on Friday, where Judge Wade A. Kagarise decided not to be jailed to process Pacifico’s guilty pleas for a drug-related crime and two related offences.

“If I regret this sentence because you do something again, I will put you in a state prison”, Kagarise warned Pacifico as he prepared to impose his sentence.

Pacifico, who wept as she addressed the judge, said she was drug free and rebuilding her life.

“I did everything I could to never set foot in the courtroom again,” Pacifico said.

The state attorney general’s office charged Pacifico in July 2021 based on an investigation that began in November 2020 after UPMC Altoona police were alerted to an empty oxycodone packet near a medicine dispenser.

Criminal charges indicate that other empty packages were later found near this location on the same day and again three days later. Further investigation led to Pacifico, who said he took oxycodone to help him sleep at night. Court documents also indicate that she replaced Oxycodone tablets with vitamin pills.

District Attorney Pete Weeks asked Kagarise for a sentence of 18 months to five years in prison.

“She had a duty to take care of her patients, and she failed in that duty,” Weeks said. “His patients needed pain relief…and they were getting vitamin D.”

State College defense attorney Jason Dunkle requested a suspended sentence. He said Pacifico’s guilty pleas were for losing eight pills – a relatively minor cost to the hospital – at a time when Pacifico was dealing with personal issues and working 4 and 5 p.m. shifts during the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19.

“It was the perfect storm of events and it broke,” Dunkle said.

Pacifico also spoke about the influence of the pandemic on his life.

“I was literally working in some of the most ridiculous conditions,” she said to the judge.

Weeks countered these claims by referring to investigative details identifying the loss of more than eight pills on multiple dates.

Kagarise, who said the sentence would focus on stealing eight pills because that’s what Pacifico pleaded guilty to, criticized his behavior.

“Playing around with drugs in a hospital is not something that can be tolerated, that society can tolerate,” said the judge. “Patients are not being given painkillers, it’s a risk…and this court views this conduct with dissatisfaction, to say the least.”

The judge also acknowledged the impact of the pandemic on the nursing profession, but refused to see that as an excuse.

“You understand that other nurses went through what you went through and didn’t do what you did. Kagarise said.

Weeks said he was disappointed with the judge’s decision to impose probation when the state’s sentencing guidelines call for incarceration.

“She stole a schedule II narcotic and endangered her nursing license as well as the licenses of other nurses she worked with,” Weeks said.

Dunkle said Pacifico retained her nursing license after a review last year by the state licensing board. That could change due to her plea and sentencing, Dunkle told the court, but she will never return to nursing.

Instead, Dunkle said her client remained focused on the business she had started supporting herself and her two children.

“She has a huge incentive to stay on track,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.

Today’s breaking news and more to your inbox