Created: Tue, 10 Sep 2013 11:45:00 PST
Updated: Wed, 11 Sep 2013 01:54:23 PST
ESCONDIDO – A former Palomar Medical Center nurse who confessed to sexually assaulting two elderly patients in their hospital beds will stand trial for only one of the counts.
A readiness conference for Dale Edward Robinson, 53, will be held next week in a North County courtroom.
Robinson told an Escondido police detective he groped two female patients under their hospital gowns while working overnight nursing shifts in April 2012, according to court documents. Robinson admitted he was aroused at the time.
The San Diego-based nurse was initially charged with two felony counts of sexual battery on an institutionalized victim, but a judge later dismissed one count, citing a lack of evidence.
Robinson’s case hinges on the concept of “corpus delicti,” a legal principle that says defendants can only be tried for a crime if there is enough evidence outside of their confession.
Even though court records show Robinson described the assaults and his victims in detail to police – including the victims’ approximate ages, the hospital rooms they were staying in, and in one case, the woman’s name – Escondido police could not find any women who recalled being violated.
Robinson told police that all of the incidents happened in the fifth floor stroke unit, where many patients suffered from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other memory problems.
According to a friend, Robinson was keenly aware of how that could affect his case.
“Mr. Robinson stated that he would probably fight [charges] in court because it would be very difficult for a woman with dementia to identify him,” the friend told police in court documents.
Despite the hurdle, Deputy District Attorney Ryan Saunders was able to establish corpus delicti on one count another way.
The woman who called for help
In the early hours of April 19, 2012, Marites Bautista was at the nurse’s station in the stroke unit when the patient called out.
“Nurse, hello? Are you an RN?”
Bautista stepped towards Room 514 and replied, “Yes I am. How can I help you?”
“Can I ask you a question?” the patient replied. It was Jeanette Spears.
The 76-year-old woman with short, curly hair was lying on her back in bed two, likely dressed in a hospital gown, Bautista would later tell police.
“Is touching a patient part of your job?” Spears asked.
Bautista wasn’t sure what the woman was getting at. She responded that touching patients was part of her job, but it depends on the type of touching.
Spears then told Bautista a male nurse was in her room a few hours before. He was wearing a nurse’s badge and uniform. Spears told Bautista the male nurse touched her intimate parts, and afterwards touched himself.
Bautista would relay this account to her charge nurse, Escondido police, and testify to it in court. Her testimony is the foundation of the prosecution’s case against Dale Robinson, who was assigned to work as a break nurse on the night Spears called out.
“What makes all of this worse is that she only had 62 days to live, and she spent her last 62 days worrying about this horrible being who did this to her,” said Kim Bootsma, Spears’ daughter.
Jeanette Spears died on June 20, 2012. Doctors at Palomar Medical Center discovered the mother of four had a brain tumor in her right frontal lobe, and she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
Exactly one month before her death, on May 20th, Spears was interviewed by an Escondido police detective. She said her “mind comes and goes” and she couldn’t recall being touched inappropriately.
But privately, Boostma said, her mother expressed fear.
“All she kept saying was that there’s a man in a red shirt who was going to hurt her. That’s all she kept repeating and that’s how she left this world. I have Palomar to thank for that.”
“I’m not a predator”
Dale Edward Robinson has lived in the same San Diego home for 39 years. He cares for his 93-year-old mother. He was clinically diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in 1992, according to court documents.
“I’m not a predator, I’m not a monster, I’m not any of that,” Robinson said during a police interview. “I think whatever the lightest sentence would be for someone who made a mistake, someone who was impulsive based on a medication error.”
According to Robinson’s defense attorney, C. Bradley Patton, the 53-year-old nurse switched health providers in late March of 2012 and the new provider prescribed an incorrect dosage of lithium, causing side effects.
Patton says that medication error, combined with amplified financial and personal stress, evoked a hyper-sexual state in Robinson. The criminal investigation into the registered nurse began after Robinson told a long-time friend about the assaults, who in turn notified the hospital and police.
When a reporter from San Diego 6 confronted Robinson at his home, he said, “It basically had to do with mental illness, bipolar disorder, and a psychotic break and that’s the bottom line.”
But according to a friend of 30 years, Robinson admitted having violent sexual urges before.
“Several years ago, Mr. Robinson informed me that he saw a young lady jogging and that he wanted to jump her, knock her in the bushes and rape her,” Robert Johnson told police last year.
Robinson changed his mind at the last minute, Johnson said.
The nurse was also part of a church group that struggled with pornography, Johnson said. He had friends lock his computer to keep him away from pornographic websites.
“Patient safety is our top priority at Palomar Health,” said hospital spokesperson Bobette Brown in a statement. “A detailed check of [Robinson’s] background and license at the time of his hire was clear, and he had good references.”
But Robinson does have a criminal record; he was convicted of carrying a loaded firearm in a public place in 1984 and served three years probation, according to court records.
“How many other women did he do this to?”
A little more than a month before prosecutors say Robinson assaulted the two patients, another patient filed a complaint from the same unit.
“On March 15,  a patient complaint was made to a nurse from patient “A,” alleging inappropriate touching by a male nurse,” wrote Rae Anne Watson, director of progressive and acute care, in a letter to Spears’ family.
“The complaint was reported to the Nursing Supervisor who immediately interviewed the patient. The patient stated she was fine, there were no issues. The Supervisor asked the patient if she was afraid or concerned about anything or anyone and the patient said no.”
Hospital records show that Robinson treated the woman who filed the complaint. Escondido police followed up on May 7 of last year, but no charges were filed.
Robinson had worked for Palomar Medical Center since May 16, 2011, and worked as a charge nurse for five years. Kim Bootsma and her family suspect there may be other victims who are too afraid, embarrassed, or forgetful to come forward.
“He needs to go to jail. He needs to be put away and he needs to pay for what he did,” said Spears’ son, Peter.
“How many other women did he do this to?”
Robinson was fired from Palomar Medical Center on June 6, 2012. His nursing license has been suspended. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted on the one remaining count of sexual battery.
His next court appearance is scheduled for September 17.