Former resident at Oakridge Community Care Home speaks out about conditions inside facility

Samuel Wallace says he never thought he would make it out of Oakridge. His family wants justice for the way he and many others were treated.
Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 3:48 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 22, 2022 at 9:29 AM EDT
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SPARTANBURG, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - “I thought that was my last place for me living,” Samuel Wallace said.

According to Wallace, near the end of his 7-year residency at Oakridge Community Care Home 1 in Inman, he’d wake up every morning with one thought in mind:

“That place is nasty,” he told FOX Carolina he’d say to himself. “They need to close it down.”

His family says DSS assisted them in placing Samuel into Oakridge back in 2014. Sam says somewhere along the way, things went very bad at the facility.

“They had rodents. They had rats. They had bed bugs,” he said. “They were everywhere. They were all over the place. They tried to spray them, but they couldn’t do it.”

Over the course of our months-long investigation, our team at FOX Carolina has uncovered documents and photo evidence showing exactly what Sam is talking about: From DHEC inspections, as well as agreements between the state health agency and Oakridge’s owner, 57-year-old Darryl Mast.

For the better part of a decade, various administrative and consent orders, as well as detailed inspections findings, show DHEC was fining Mast for repeated issues with bed bugs, lice, rodent infestations, filthy living conditions for residents (including urine-soaked beds), plus much more.

Findings from DHEC’s own investigators submitted to the Administrative Law Court in Columbia, which FOX Carolina obtained through a Freedom of Information request, show DHEC fining Mast as early as 2015. During a hearing in March where the suspension order on Oakridge was upheld, a judge told the court that there was a “preponderance of evidence” that the conditions at Oakridge were a threat to the health and safety of its residents.

FOX Carolina also recently obtained new documents from the Inman Community Fire Department, which gave us records of 19 separate incidents where they were called out to Oakridge.

In one case, the department says they responded to a smoke alarm that went off after maintenance detonated a bug bomb near it.

“My voice was not being heard,” Sam said. “Made me very angry.”

He says he tried to speak up about conditions inside the home multiple times and was always shut down. Sam says he was told to be quiet, and that he was crazy.

“They’d tell me: ‘Samuel, you’re talking out of your mind.,’” he recounted. “‘We ain’t got no bugs in here. You stop saying that. You’ll have us shut down.’”

But it didn’t stop there.

The report from Attorney General Alan Wilson back in February states that part of the reason Darryl Mast was charged with exploitation and neglect of vulnerable adults was because he put his own residents to work.

Sam says he experienced that firsthand.

“I was taking out the garbage,” he said. “I was sweeping the floor. I was mopping. I was doing janitorial work.”

This week, Spartanburg’s County Administrator revealed to FOX Carolina that Darryl Mast was running 2 unlicensed operations on the Oakridge premises: a pharmacy and a convenience store.

“When I would go up there and talk to them, I’d say ‘I’m not only fighting for my brother. I’m fighting for the rest of them too,’” said Alma Byrd. Alma is Sam’s older sister and medical power of attorney. We interviewed her alongside Sam at his new care facility Thursday.

Alma says she had to move heaven and earth to get her brother out of Oakridge. Back in 2019, she submitted a formal complaint to DHEC about her brother’s treatment. When she says the department wouldn’t give her all the information she wanted, she submitted a Freedom of Information request.

FOX Carolina obtained those documents as well, in which DHEC revealed Darryl Mast violated regulations multiple times by not notifying Alma and the family when Sam was transported to the hospital.

“He was in the hospital 7 days, and I didn’t know about it until I went to visit him,” Alma said.

Those same FOIA documents also show Sam was not being given medications he needed, adding that it was administered to him improperly.

Sam has been in a new care facility in Spartanburg since November 2021. He and his sister agree--he’s in a better place.

But they both say they still want justice for what was done, and for what they say was inaction on the part of the state & the county for far too long.

“I hope the government will step in and do the right thing,” Alma said.

FOX Carolina is still looking to get more details from our state agencies like DHEC and DSS about how their process of placing residents into facilities like Oakridge works, plus how often they inspect those facilities.

Spartanburg County also says Darryl Mast has indicated to them that he wants to sell the Oakridge property, which is still condemned as of the time this article has been published.

FOX Carolina’s Matt Kaufax has reached out multiple times to Darryl Mast and his attorney for their side of the story. We still have not heard back.

This is a continuing investigation. Stay with FOX Carolina for updates.