David and Agnes Machoka had lived under a cloud since 2013, when a multi-agency investigation led to the closure of their Collegedale senior care facility and the couple being charged with negligence and abuse.
A ray of sunshine broke through this summer when Assistant District Attorney Bates Bryan said some statements concerning the facility were inaccurate and Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz dismissed the case.
The Machokas hope their reputation is restored and they can successfully operate Friendship Haven, a senior home they own in Chattanooga.
"We are happy to be set free," said David Machoka.
For the past three years, the Machokas have said they never abused anyone at Moraa's Home for Seniors, the facility named for her mother that was shut down in Collegedale.
Agnes Machoka said she is a state licensed nurse's aide and she worked as a nurse for Life Care Centers of America before they opened Moraa's in 2009. David Machoka worked in public service in Kenya for more than 30 years, they said.
After a 2013 investigation by Collegedale authorities and Tennessee Adult Protective Services, the Machokas and aide Margaret "Maggie" Adhiambo were charged with two counts each of physical abuse and gross negligence and six counts each of willful abuse, neglect or exploitation.
By their July 20, 2016, court date, the charges had been dropped except two counts each of gross neglect of an impaired adult. Bates moved that day to dismiss the remaining counts.
" Statements turned out to be inaccurate and having talked to several witnesses and the assistant who had the case for a year before I got it, the State's not going to be able to make out a case," said Bryan, according to court records.
Attorney Jim McKoon, who represented the Machokas along with attorney Clayton Whittaker, said the complaints that initiated the investigation were untrue.
The Machokas' records have been expunged, but Collegedale Police Detective Kat Cooper, who participated in the investigation, said she saw first-hand the problems at Moraa's Home for Seniors that led to it being shut down.
When Cooper visited the home, it included at least six seniors but only one worker.
The worker, a woman who weighed about 130 pounds, couldn't by herself lift a client with Parkinson's disease who weighed about 240 pounds. There was no way she could get all six clients out of the house if there was a fire, Cooper said. Most clients could not walk.
"When I see people needing a great amount of care and I've got professionals coming in from Adult Protective Services saying that these people are not qualified to give this amount of care, then we have to step back and see exactly what's going on," said Cooper.
Cooper said those people needed to be moved out of Moraa's because they required more care than one person could give.
That same year, the Machokas bought the 13-bed Friendship Haven for $125,000. The home, founded in the 1930s, had a 70-year history of never turning a senior away because of inability to pay.
The United Way provided some funding for the agency from the 1980s until about the mid-2000s, but by 2008 the facility was in financial straits and merged with Rosewood Supportive Services. Friendship Haven closed after Rosewood went out of business.
The building was vacant and had been vandalized when the Machokas bought it and replaced the copper wiring, restored the bathroom fixtures and fixed the air conditioning. They also made two bathrooms handicap-accessible and repainted the building.
The Machokas provide the care at Friendship Haven themselves.
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6431.