POWHATAN COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Three people charged with neglecting patients at a residential mental health facility in Powhatan appeared in court Thursday for the first time.

Clarence Lewis, the owner of Essene Home, appeared before a judge at the Powhatan County Courthouse Thursday morning. He stood alongside Karen Fitzgerald, the manager, and Daryl Fitzgerald, the administrator of the facility.

The three defendants are being represented by attorney Alex Taylor. The judge scheduled their trial to start in mid-August.

Rob Cerullo, the Commonwealth’s Attorney of Powhatan County, said the theory of this case is one of neglect, not outright abuse.

“Over this period of time there were several instances where necessary care to their safety and health was not provided,” he said. “They put the patient in jeopardy of health issues which is what the complainants allege in this case.”

The defendants were charged on Tuesday with two counts of abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults.

Curello said each class one misdemeanor charge could carry up to a year in jail, as well as a fine.

The Powhatan County Sheriff’s Office confirmed with 8News that Essene Home has had “150 calls for service of many different types” in the last five years.

“The investigation was initiated after a complaint of abuse and neglect by a family member of a resident,” Powhatan Chief Deputy Jeffery Searfoss wrote in a statement. “The investigation resulted in charges being filed against Clarence Lewis the owner of the Essene home, Karen Fitzgerald, the manager, and her husband Daryl Fitzgerald the administrator of the facility.”

Essene Home is an assisted-living facility which aims to provide care for those with “intellectual disability, mental health disorders, Alzheimer’s, and dementia,” according to the facility’s website.

Lewis told 8News this week that he had no idea why he and the other staff had been charged, and that there’s more to the story regarding the two patients who brought allegations against them.

Although Lewis initially offered to speak with 8News and allow a reporter to tour the home, he has since, at the advice of his lawyer, retracted that offer.

However, Cerullo thinks they have a solid case. “I believe there’s ample evidence to proceed or else I wouldn’t be going forward,” he said.

In the meantime, Cerullo said they’re not asking the court to shut down Essene Home.

“We are not asking the court to shut the facility down at this time or moving the residents or anything like that, so everything is basically on status quo until and unless the Commonwealth proves the case,” he said. “These folks are absolutely innocent until proven guilty, so there will be no law enforcement ramification. I can’t speak to the effect it will have on their license or any other agencies.”