George Dahmer was a hit on the professional wrestling circuit from the 1950s to the 1980s, known by his Chief White Owl persona and delighting fans with a war dance and tomahawk chop on his ring opponents.
"He was the center of attention," his widow, Patricia Dahmer of Boynton Beach, recalled Tuesday. "The life of the party."
But instead of a peaceful retirement, George Dahmer died May 23, 2008 at age 72 as a result of a Lake Worth nursing home's neglect, a Palm Beach County civil trial jury determined this week.
Jurors ordered Lake Worth Manor to pay nearly $1.8 million in damages to Mr. Dahmer's estate. The facility at 1201 12th Ave. South is now called Oasis Health and Rehabilitation Center.
Joined by her son, Steve Dahmer, Patricia Dahmer discussed the weeklong trial and the favorable verdict during a news conference with their attorney Joseph Landy at his West Palm Beach office.
"Justice was served," she said, adding that she hopes the case will be the springboard for new legislation to increase standards and regulations for nursing homes in Florida.
Lake Worth Enterprises, LLC, the corporation that owns Oasis, later released a statement expressing its "heart-felt sympathy to the family" of George Dahmer. But it also suggested a possible appeal.
"This was an extremely complex case involving a patient with multiple disease processes who had been treated by four separate facilities and different attending physicians," the firm said. "We feel the jury's decision was unfair and are considering an appeal."
During the trial, Landy detailed George Dahmer's rapid decline after he was admitted to Lake Worth Manor with a diagnosis of end-stage senile dementia.
Within 63 days, the once-stocky wrestler had lost 32 pounds and the ability to walk or talk, he said. Landy argued that the staff's neglect caused Dahmer to suffer from painful decubitis ulcers on his heels and tailbone that became infected and caused his death.
The family also testified that they were never told about his bedsores, a fall from a wheelchair, the loss of his dentures and other incidents.
"They kept giving me the runaround," Patricia Dahmer said. "Everything we complained about fell on deaf ears."
Steve Dahmer said he didn't find out about the extent of his father's injuries until he was transferred to another facility. That's when they took photos of his wounds that were later blown up and shown to the jury.
Patricia Dahmer called it a cruel end to a man who was so caring in his prime, and always aimed to please arena crowds.
"He would never leave his fans without an autograph," she said of her husband of nearly 50 years.
Steve Dahmer joked that the family has no relation to the infamous serial killer with the same surname, Jeffrey Dahmer. He wants the world to associate the name as champions for a good cause, protecting nursing home residents.
"We're the Dahmers that are out to save lives," he said.
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