PLAINS TOWNSHIP – Court records say a nurse’s aide from Lackawanna County is accused of stealing a gold chain with a crucifix off of the neck of a dying veteran in hospice care last month.
Authorities charged Warren Wells, 42, of Madison Township with robbery at an arraignment on Wednesday afternoon.
According to investigators, a 14K gold chain with a crucifix was reported missing from a patient inside the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center near Wilkes-Barre in December of 2013.
Court documents said army veteran Laurel Sywensky, 60, Lehigh County, died the following day, and the woman’s son suspected that a male employee seen outside the hospice care room had swiped the jewelry.
Police based at the hospital say that records from the Northeastern Pennsylvania Precious Metals Database showed that Wells sold the chain and crucifix at J.B. Jewelers in Scranton, within an hour after his shift was supposed to end on the day of the alleged robbery.
Court documents said Wells sold the jewelry for $100, but a jewelry store employee told police that the value was estimated at $360.
Veterans heading to appointments inside the medical center told Newswatch 16 that they were surprised and disgusted by the allegations.
“I had some valuables and they weren’t tampered. It kind of surprises me that something like that would happen,” said Chester Zeshonsk of Scranton.
“He has a lot of nerve to steal it, if he believed in that kind of religion,” said Don Melvin of Scranton.
One neighbor who lives near Wells' home in Lackawanna County told Newswatch 16 that he was stunned by the arrest, and described the nurse’s aide as a “very religious man”.
“Very nice guy. I mean I can’t believe it,” said Rick Sievers of Madison Township.
Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center spokesperson Gail Benner told Newswatch 16 that other doctors and nurses at the facility are focused on helping veterans.
“Each year we serve approximately 39,000 veterans throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania, roughly about an 18-county area. A lot of veterans come here to get any kind of medical care that they may need,” said Benner. “We remain committed to providing them with the excellent healthcare that they deserve through their service.”
The spokesperson would not comment on the status of Wells’ employment.