Deputies describe search for Alzheimer's patient

Local authorities said they did all they could to find an Alzheimer's patient who was missing three days before she was found dead Sunday in a wooded area off Clarkston Drive.

Deputies spent the holiday weekend searching the neighborhoods and woods near Belair and Wrightsboro roads after 85-year-old Elizabeth Bert walked away from the House of Life Personal Care Home in the 3500 block of Wrightsboro Road on Thursday. Sheriff's deputies from Richmond and Columbia counties, men on horseback, members of the Alzheimer's Association and a Georgia State Patrol helicopter helped to locate the body of Ms. Bert shortly before noon Sunday -- about 72 hours after she wandered away. Members of the victim's extended family also traveled to Augusta from Louisiana to aid in the search, according to Richmond County sheriff's Lt. Scott Gay.

Ms. Bert's cause of death is still unknown, but authorities have said they don't expect foul play.

"It looks like she was exhausted and with her medical problems she just passed out," said sheriff's Sgt. Chew.

An autopsy performed at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Crime Lab in Augusta on Monday proved inconclusive, according to Richmond County Coroner Grover Tuten. He said the results from a toxicology test are pending and might shed more light on how Ms. Bert, who also suffered from diabetes, died.

Sheriff's Lt. Scott Peebles said Monday that authorities were still investigating the case and that no charges had been filed against the care home.

"The case is still under investigation, but before we did anything like that we would consult the district attorney," Lt. Peebles said.

The Georgia Division of Healthcare Facility Regulations is aiding the Sheriff's Office in an investigation of the personal care home, a state spokeswoman said Monday.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.