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2 plead guilty in nursing home case

Two men have pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the death of a mentally handicapped man entrusted to their care at Community Presence Inc., a Carter County home for adults.

Michael Price, 25, who had cerebral palsy, died Oct. 14, 2007 after Matthew Bortles of Soldier lay on Price's back "for more than 30 minutes using an improper restraint," according to a press release from the state attorney general's office. The release said Price stopped breathing and ultimately died as a result.

Branden Starostka of Grayson did not intervene, but instead watched television during the incident.

After Price died, Bortles and Starostka tried to conceal the evidence by cleaning up his blood, hiding a bloody pillow and putting a blood-stained washcloth in the washing machine, according to the release.

Bortles pleaded guilty Tuesday in Carter Circuit Court to charges of manslaughter, knowing abuse of a vulnerable adult and tampering with physical evidence. He will serve eight years under the plea agreement. Starostka pleaded guilty to wanton abuse and neglect of a vulnerable adult and tampering with physical evidence. He will serve five years.

Formal sentencing for both men is scheduled for April 20.

Nine other people were indicted after the investigation into Price's death revealed abuse of other residents at Community Presence.

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