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Patterson family announces intent to sue after body found near Austin memory care facility

His family confirmed Thursday afternoon the body found belongs to 76-year-old Paull Patterson.

AUSTIN, Texas — The family of Paull Patterson, the 76-year-old man who died after leaving a local memory care facility, spoke to news outlets Thursday after his body was discovered the day prior.

In a separate press conference Wednesday, police reported they believe Patterson's body was discovered not far from Colonial Gardens Memory Care, where he was being cared for. His family confirmed to KVUE on Thursday afternoon that the body found belongs to Patterson.

"It's our belief that since we had searched that area, that him being found within feet of where we already searched just confirms the fact that he was mobile and he had come back to the location he was familiar with," said Assistant Chief Jerry Bauzon with APD.

Officials said that Patterson was first reported missing approximately seven hours after he exited the facility after a Colonial Gardens staff member reportedly left a door open on Nov. 6. His body was discovered 10 days later.

In Thursday's conference, the family's lawyer stated they intend to pursue legal action against the facility.

"We can't file suit today even if we wanted to," said Amber Russell the founder of LOAR PLLC. "There's a lot of legal hurdles that we have to jump through first, but we intend to absolutely pursue this to the full extent. We want to get as much information for this family and to prevent it from happening to other families."

Patterson's daughter, Laurel Patterson, and his sister, Rebecca Clinger, joined Russell on Thursday.

"I'd have to look at the silver linings in this situation. And it's brought me a lot closer to families and friends here who have helped him, you know, help try to find my dad for days on end and really just the community at large," said Laurel Patterson. "It has restored my faith in just the power of neighbors and strangers and just the kindness of people in the City of Austin. I have to just really thank everyone that donated money and time and effort to just find my dad."

She went on to call her father her "hero," stating that they became closer as friends later in life.

"I just want his legacy to be, you know, more than just the picture. But he was a great person, and I'm going to miss him terribly," said Laurel Patterson.

Clinger said her brother was a special kind of person, and he took on a leadership role when their own father needed care of his own.

"One of the best things that he ever did for me was when our father was not well and needed to be someplace, instead of putting him into a home, he took him into his own home and took care of him," said Clinger. "And I'm so grateful for that. That was a safe place. And it meant more to me than you could possibly know."

Russell added that Paull Patterson once served in the Coast Guard.

"He was a man that gave so much and all that his family wanted at the end was to find a place that was safe, a place that he could be, where he could be taken care of because he was still physically fit," said Russell. "He was a man that could still be very active on his own. And so it got to the point where his family realized that the safest thing they could do is find a facility where he could be cared for 24/7. They placed their trust in Colonial Gardens to do that, and they were promised that he would get that care. And, unfortunately, we sit here today because he didn't."

At the conference Thursday, Laurel Patterson recalled attending concerts with her father – her very first, Ziggy Marley, and later the Grateful Dead and South by Southwest – also traveling to South America around six years ago.

"He wanted to do Machu Picchu for his 70th birthday," she said. "And then we tacked on Uruguay and Argentina and had a great time. We'd never really taken a trip like that before."

Russell stated that the investigation remains ongoing, involving both the Austin Police Department and the Texas Health and Human Services (HHSC) Commission.

"As we investigate, we expect to uncover ... very serious and inexcusable deficiencies and violations of procedures and protocol at Colonial Gardens," said Russell, adding they were told external cameras were not working at the facility. "...we want the facility to be held responsible for what happened and we want to make sure this doesn't happen to anybody else."

The HHSC released the following statement Thursday:

"Our top priority at HHSC is the health and safety of people in the facilities we regulate. We are aware of this incident and are on-site conducting an active investigation to see if this facility violated any health or safety regulations.

"During an investigation, HHSC staff conduct observations of resident care and treatment; interviews with staff, family members, and other residents; and documentation reviews to determine whether or how the facility failed to protect the health and safety of residents by not adhering to regulatory requirements. In interviewing facility staff, our investigators focus on whether they were fully trained and are carrying out all requirements to protect resident health and safety.

"If we do determine a violation occurred, we will cite the facility and require it to come into full compliance with all regulations. Penalties are based on the scope and severity of a violation. Any violation that results in harm to a resident is categorized at the highest level of severity."

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