More than a week and a half after his mom died on Palm Sunday, Marcos Ayala and his fiancee Sheila Gastelum are still reeling.
"We knew she was leaving," Sheila says. "Just not like this. Not the way it happened."
The couple are grieving the loss of the family matriarch, Leovi Ayala, and wondering what happened in the 72-year-old's final moments inside the Robbinsdale Rehabilitation and Care Center.
The family says they moved Leovi into the Extendicare-owned Robbinsdale facility several months ago. Extendicare is a major North American long-term care provider that according to its website operates more than 150 facilities in the U.S.
"They told us that they were a five-star facility," Marcos says.
Leovi suffered from kidney failure and began hospice care just two weeks earlier.
On March 29, Marcos recalled spending most of the day with his frail mother, leaving Robbinsdale around 4:30 p.m. He checked in with a phone call around 7:30 that evening, and during the conversation his mom said she was excited to see him for breakfast on Monday.
It was a meal they'd never share.
Marcos remembers the call from the facility informing him his mother had passed away.
"I said, 'What happened?' How did she pass away? He said, 'Well, we dropped her.' You dropped her! How? 'Well, I wasn't in there when it happened. I came in and she already passed away.'"
In the hours and days that followed, the facility and Extendicare allegedly changed their story about staff suddenly dropping Leovi.
Police officers did respond that Sunday night, and with assistance from the medical examiner's office found nothing out of the ordinary with the death of a hospice patient -- no trauma, no recent signs of injury.
Even so, Marcos and his family weren't satisfied.
They brought their complaints to Fox 9, and eventually Extendicare made what appears to be an offer to the family on company letterhead.
Sent from the company's director of risk management to the family, it offers to pay for a private autopsy, another $1,000 for Leovi to be cremated, and an additional $35,000 to settle all claims -- provided the family stays silent about their allegations.
But Leovi's family isn't interested in that deal.
"There's no amount of money that they can give us that will change the fact, they took my mother's dignity," Marcos says. "You can't put a dollar amount on that."
Robbinsdale's administrator did release this statement when we asked if Leovi was dropped by staff before she died.
"We express our condolences to the friends and family of Leovi Ayala for their loss and are deeply saddened by her death," it says. "We are taking this matter very seriously and have notified the appropriate authorities and state agencies. In addition, we have started a thorough internal review of the circumstances surrounding this occurrence."
The Ayalas had Leovi cremated without an autopsy being performed first, so they really are relying on an honest and thorough investigation from Robbinsdale.