Ex-head nurse at Cobb jail keeps license after denying care to dying inmate

Staff asked then-Nursing Supervisor Annaleen Visser for permission to treat Kevil Wingo. She refused, and Wingo died while in custody.
A Georgia nurse will continue to practice medicine despite admitting she denied a dying man medical care while he begged for help.
Published: Aug. 31, 2023 at 9:01 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2023 at 7:14 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - A Georgia nurse will continue to practice medicine despite admitting she denied a dying man medical care while he begged for help.

In July, the Georgia Board of Nursing released its final judgement involving Annaleen Visser, a former nursing supervisor at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center.

The board opened an investigation into Visser about three years after she oversaw the care for Kevil Wingo, who was detained at the jail in 2019 on drug possession charges.

Security camera video inside the jail captured Wingo begging medical staff for help before he died. He’s seen collapsing at least five times in and out of his cell. His pain was so severe, a deputy brought him into the infirmary in a wheelchair.

Nearly the entire medical staff believed Wingo needed help.

Award-winning investigative reporter Andy Pierrotti takes you Behind the Investigation

“He’s like, laying on the floor screaming, he’s sweating,” said Natalie Chance, a former nurse at the jail, in a recorded phone call she placed to the infirmary the night Wingo fell ill. “He says he’s got abdominal pain … He can’t fake this.”

“He actually fell backwards onto the floor and crawled to the window and was asking again begging for help, saying he could not breathe,” said Tiffany Womack in an interview with sheriff investigators at the time. Womack was the jail’s lab technician, and also a trained emergency medical technician.

Womack asked to perform a medical evaluation on Wingo that would have checked his heart rate, blood pressure and other vitals. Visser wouldn’t let her.

After growing tired of Wingo’s screams for help, Visser asked deputies to put the 36-year-old father of three in an isolation room. He collapsed inside and never came out alive.

According to the medical examiner, Wingo died from a perforated ulcer. That means his abdominal cavity was bathing in stomach acid, which is painful and deadly. No drugs were found in his system.

Wingo’s family filed a complaint with the Georgia Board of Nursing, asking the agency to revoke Visser’s license. This past June, an administrative law judge recommended Visser serve one year probation for her actions.

The nursing board could have rejected or modified the judge’s ruling, but did not.

The board’s decision shocked Wingo’s family. “She don’t deserve to be a nurse,” said Kierra Wingo, one of Kevil Wingo’s daughters. “I wouldn’t trust her around nobody.”

Calls and emails to Visser and her attorney for a response went unanswered.

An Atlanta News First Investigation uncovered the nursing board levied its decision without reviewing all of the potential evidence.

In May, Visser took part in a video-recorded deposition part of a pending lawsuit against the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office. The deposition was taken after she was terminated at the jail and after Wingo’s family settled a lawsuit with the detention center’s former medical provider; Visser had nothing to lose by participating.

In the deposition, Visser repeatedly claimed she believed Wingo was faking his own death to get to the hospital, even after knowing he died from a perforated ulcer.

“You know, when they act out, they do it like that. They pretend to be dead,” Visser said. “And he would do anything to go. Even if it means picking you off the floor.”

Visser called Wingo’s pleas for help “the show of the day” at the infirmary.

According to Visser, it would have only taken her about five minutes to check Wingo’s vitals. When asked why she didn’t, Visser said it was because Wingo was too rowdy.

Sheriff investigators and Womack disagreed.

“He could not have acted out [because] he was very sick,” Womack said, according to disciplinary hearing documents.

After sheriff’s investigators reviewed the jail’s security video, they told Visser they did not believe Wingo was disruptive. “We’ve seen the video, and I have yet to see him throughout the video acting out at all,” said Investigator Cody Driskell to the charge nurse.

In the deposition, Visser told attorneys she would do nothing different today, even knowing how Wingo died.

Elaine Harris is a former nursing professor at Mercer University with more than 40 years of experience.

After reviewing Wingo’s case and watching Visser’s deposition, she believes the board made a decision based on incomplete information.

“They would have seen this nurse’s utter lack of compassion, her utter lack of care,” said Harris, who is not an expert witness in the pending litigation. “I can’t envision her in any other practice setting and being considered a safe practitioner.”

In Harris’ opinion, if Visser had allowed someone to take Wingo’s vital, they would have seen him experiencing dangerously low blood pressure and an extremely high heart rate.

Harris said she’s treated hundreds of patients with perforated ulcers during her career. She believes Wingo could have been saved if he was taken to the hospital.

“Even after all of the evidence was in, [Visser] insisted multiple times that there is nothing that she would have done differently,” Harris said. “That is a clear violation of standard of care. It’s a lack of self-reflection. It’s a total lack of evaluation of the care that Mr. Wingo received.”

State nursing board president Tammy Bryant declined to be interviewed about the ruling.

Award-winning investigative reporter Andy Pierrotti takes you Behind the Investigation

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whose agency provides administrative support to the board, also declined. The state licensing agency does not wield any statutory authority over the enforcement process.

“Secretary Raffensperger was deeply saddened by the unfortunate events leading to the untimely death of Mr. Wingo and extends his continued sympathies to his family,” said a Raffensperger spokesperson.

The Cobb County Sheriff’s office denies any liability in Wingo’s death and shied away from responding to Visser’s actions.

“While this incident occurred under the previous sheriff, it does not change the painful experience of Kevil Wingo and the Wingo family,” Sheriff Craig Owens said. “As the sheriff since 2021, I have prioritized respect and care for those under our watch,”

Wingo’s family said Visser’s actions show she doesn’t know how to do her job or she doesn’t care.

“You shouldn’t be a nurse,” Kierra Wingo said. “I don’t know nurses that act like that.”

If there’s something you would like Atlanta News First Investigative Reporter Andy Pierrotti to look into, email andy.pierrotti@wanf.com.