SANDUSKY, Ohio – John Riems would leave Christmas cards on car windshields and barely wave to neighbors. The exceptionally private night-side nurse and his wife seldom had visitors to their tidy mobile home near Lake Erie. His co-workers said he had a temper and would swear at patients.
Officials say Riems had far more concerning behavior: the 49-year-old is accused of raping and assaulting a paralyzed patient at a nursing home; the victim list could reach 100 if investigators believe what Riems claims.
"He hardly talked to anybody," neighbor Janis Tarring said Friday. "I knew to keep to myself."
Riems also kept to himself for the two decades he lived at Bayshore Estates and during the 22 years since he graduated from nursing school. He moved quietly from job to job — police say as many as 10 — and seldom engaged with his neighbors.
"We have lived here for years, and we never met him," neighbor Estella Kingseed said. "Every year, they (he and his wife) left a Christmas card on the windshield of our car, but we never met the man."
Neighbors in this city of some 26,000 people, west of Cleveland and known for Cedar Point amusement park, expressed disgust at the allegations. Police say Riems sexually assaulted a 55-year-old man as he lay partially paralyzed in his bed at Concord Care and Rehabilitation Home, a one-story, brick care facility surrounded by a tract of tri-level homes.
Riems has pleaded not guilty charges of rape and gross sexual imposition and was being held Saturday in the Erie County jail on $100,000 bond pending a court appearance Thursday. The office of Riems' attorney Troy D. Wisehart said he had no comment. A message was left at his office on Saturday.
The nursing home declined comment on the case, citing privacy of the case. In a statement, however, officials said they fired the accused individual, without naming Riems.
Former colleagues and neighbors said Riems was a man whose quiet fury sometimes exploded.
"We've had several residents, they don't want him touching them, they don't want him in their room," said Cynthia Wilson, a 47-year-old nurse's aide who was fired in December. "A lot of them would refuse their meds just to keep him out of their room."
She said she saw him hit walls and medical carts and throw papers on the floor.
Wilson, who worked with Riems for more than 20 years at several nursing homes, said she was fired after he accused her of neglecting to wash wheelchairs.
Another colleague, Olivia Burns, said she warned supervisors that Riems verbally abused patients by swearing at them. She resigned Tuesday after hearing of the arrest.
She told the Sandusky Register he had a temper and slammed his fist on the counter when residents sought nursing assistance by flipping on their lights.
In a statement, Concord Care did not mention anyone by name but said some former employees had made false statements to the media.
The state Board of Nursing wouldn't say if there were any prior complaints against Riems but said the record is clear of any disciplinary action taken by the board.
Local police and investigators from the attorney general's office are trying to determine the answer to Friday's full-page headline in the Register: Where else did John Riems work?
Officials said they hoped to have a complete accounting of his work history put together within the week. So far, they said they believe he worked at least 10 care facilities, but investigators are having trouble contacting all of them.
"A couple of nursing homes are no longer in existence," Perkins Township Police Chief Tim McClung said. "So we're trying to get in touch with the former owners."
Riems' resume stretches back through three decades, to when he earned his nursing license in 1985.
Police say Riems admitted to abusing almost 100 patients since he started work but can recall specifics for only about two dozen.
What's clear, though, is Riems liked his privacy.
His neighbors described the area as friendly, perhaps too familiar. The neighbors shovel snow together and chat about their children and grandchildren. Riems' reluctance to participate made him remarkable.
He also would remain in a room alone with patients for up to an hour at a time, Wilson said.
"We don't know what he's doing in the room with the doors shut so long," she said. "I've questioned him, 'John, why are you in the room so long?' He would tell us all, 'This is none of your business."'