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Nursing assistant pleads not guilty to rape

Original source:

San Diego Union-Tribune
Dec. 31, 2009

EAST COUNTY COURTS - A nursing assistant at El Dorado Care Center pleaded not guilty yesterday to rape and other felony charges during an arraignment in El Cajon Superior Court after authorities said he was caught having sex with an elderly, incoherent patient.

Felix Panem, 53, is being held on $450,000 bail on two counts of rape, one count of elder abuse and one count of first-degree burglary. If convicted, he would face a maximum sentence of 10 years and 4 months in prison, Deputy District Attorney Chantal De Mauregne said.

The staff at the El Cajon nursing facility called police Saturday after an employee walked into a female patient's room and saw Panem having sex with her, El Cajon police Lt. Tim Henton said. Police said the victim was incoherent, didn't possess all of her faculties and has a court-appointed person overseeing her case.

Investigators think the woman is the only victim. They said they have been able to identify at least two other incidents in which Panem is suspected of raping her.

"The facility is cooperating fully with the police investigation, which is ongoing, and the Department of Public Health investigation, which is separate and also ongoing," said Mark Johnson, an attorney for the care center.

Further details about Panem's employment record were unavailable.

The facility, on Washington Avenue, is a 256-bed inpatient rehabilitation center that offers 24-hour medical staffing, according to its Web site.

Staff writer Dana Littlefield contributed to this report.