Former model Rebecca Zeni found eaten alive by mites in Georgia nursing home

Authorities failed to inspect the nursing home despite receiving notifications about the scabies outbreak.

                            Former model Rebecca Zeni found eaten alive by mites in Georgia nursing home
The former model was placed in a nursing home by her family members because she was suffering from dementia (Source: Getty Images)

Once a glamorous model in New York, 93-year-old Rebecca Zeni was found to have died in her nursing home in Georgia in June, 2015. The cause of death has been listed as 'septicemia due to crusted scabies'. Zeni was eaten alive by scabies mites at the Shepherds Hill Nursing Home in LaFayette where she was admitted in 2010.

Forensic pathologist Dr Kris Sperry who was asked to look over the autopsy report told 11 Alive that it was "one of the most horrendous things I've ever seen in my career as a forensic pathologist."

"I would seriously consider calling this a homicide by neglect," he added.

The gruesome photos show Zeni's body covered in flaking skin and scabs. Her hand was blackened and decayed with long, untrimmed nails. Scabies is a contagious skin infection caused by a microscopic mite that burrows under the top layer of the skin to lay eggs. Infections are not usually fatal if properly treated. Zeni is believed to have been killed slowly and painfully over the course of several months.

"I don't understand how you can allow a human being to suffer needlessly," said Mike Prieto, the lawyer for Zeni's family who are suing Pruitt Health who run the nursing home for negligence.

Outside of her modelling career, Zeni also worked at a Chicago TV station and in a naval yard during World War 2. She was placed in the home by her family after being diagnosed with dementia. It is not known when they last visited her during her stay. 

The Georgia Department of Public Health was notified of at least two scabies outbreaks at Shepherds Hill, one in 2013 and again in 2015, but they responded with advice on dealing with it instead of conducting an inspection. A total of 35 residents and staff are believed to have been infected. 

In their legal response to the lawsuit, Pruitt Health claimed that they are not a healthcare provider and, as the death was caused by 'entities over which (Pruitt) exercised no control', they are not responsible for the former model's death.