Judge denies reduced bail request for Manse on Marsh owner facing manslaughter charge

Christopher Skiff
Christopher Skiff

The owner of The Manse on Marsh, who is facing charges of manslaughter and elder abuse, declined to surrender his passport Wednesday until after he took a planned international vacation, prompting a judge to deny his request for reduced bail.

Christopher Skiff, 54, appeared with his attorney Robert Sanger in San Luis Obispo Superior Court to enter not guilty pleas to both charges and argue for his $250,000 bail — which he previously posted following his July 21 arrest — to be reduced or eliminated.

Skiff’s 63-year-old co-defendant, Gary Potts, former Manse administrator, also pleaded not guilty Wednesday. Potts had previously succeeded in getting his bail reduced to $75,000.

Sanger wrote in his motion that Skiff, who lives in Cayucos, is a longtime business owner in SLO County, deeply involved in his Morro Bay church and is a youth sports coach.

“(Skiff) has been an upstanding member of this community in several different ways,” Sanger said in arguments Wednesday.

Judge Dodie Harman told Skiff that she would approve his request for a recognizance release, meaning Skiff would not be required to post money, if he was willing to surrender his passport. Skiff asked if he could do so after a long-planned international anniversary trip with his wife.

In response, Deputy Attorney General Mark Cumba — the case is being prosecuted by the California Office of the Attorney General — said the existing bail is in line with the charges filed. The state began its investigation after the Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse received a complaint.

“There is a death involved,” Cumba said.

Cumba alleged that Manse on Marsh, an assisted living facility in San Luis Obispo, was not authorized to accept residents with dementia, yet Skiff knowingly did so in the case of Mauricio Cardenas, 65, who was fatally struck by a car after wandering 10 miles from the facility Dec. 21, 2014.

Sanger argued that state policy at the time allowed facilities like Manse to accept patients with mild or secondary diagnosis dementia.

“We do not want to lock everyone up who has dementia,” Sanger said of the state’s rationale.

Sanger later told Harman that he would withdraw the request for reduced bail.

The next hearing for Skiff and Potts was set for Aug. 28.

Andrew Sheeler: 805-781-7929, @andrewsheeler

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