Family of nursing home resident who died of COVID-19 left with unanswered questions

Thomas Minichillo was the ultimate family man. "He was just always there for us,” said Minichillo’s son, Brian Minichillo.

He talked to his wife of over 50 years multiple times a day and face-timed with his kids and grand-kids regularly, so when those calls stopped coming in, his family knew something wasn't right.

"We were calling up there multiple times a day asking for information and most of the time we were just being told he was fine,” said Brian Minichillo.

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Thomas Minichillo had been staying in the Rehab Pavilion at Freedom Square of Seminole recovering from a recent trip to the hospital. Even though his family couldn't go inside to visit him, they were still in constant communication.

"We went up there a few times,” Brian Minichillo explained. “I went outside his window and talked to him on the phone, and he could see me out his window.”

After a few days inside the facility, he was suddenly moved from his private room to a shared room. However, the family said they weren't told where that room was located.

The response they received from staff regarding why Thomas Minichillo wasn’t answering their calls or messages also left the family confused.

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"We called to talk to his nurse and she just said the same thing- 'we think he's just tired. Do you want us to go in there and check on him to see if he wants to talk to you?' So we said ‘yeah,’” Brian said. “They went in there and just said he was tired and didn't want to talk to my mom, which I don't really believe that if they asked him to talk to my mom he would say no."

After only ten days at Freedom Square, the family was told Thomas Minichillo was being taken to the hospital. After a few days, he was tested for COVID-19. On April 9, the test came back positive. He died the next day.

"I feel like he didn't have the dignified death he deserved,” said Brian Minichillo.

His family believes there's more to the story.

"If they were withholding information about my father, which we believe they were, I don't care if it’s COVID-19 or just an average day, it’s not right,” said Minichillo’s other son, TJ Minchillo.

While answers won’t bring their father back, they just want to know the truth.

"We struggle with not knowing what happened at the rehab facility,” said Brian.

Since Thomas Minichillo’s death, the rehab facility at Freedom Square has been evacuated as two other residents staying in that same building also died from the virus, with dozens of more people testing positive.

A spokesperson with the facility told FOX 13 that due to patient privacy, they are not able to comment on this situation specifically.

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