RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Workers at a Long Island nursing home faced a judge Tuesday, on allegations that they killed a patient and tried to cover it up.

As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, the Riverhead criminal courtroom was crowded and filled with anxious families of both the accused caregivers and the victim’s loved ones.

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The family of the victim – Aurelia Rios, 72, of Islip – appeared overcome outside the courtroom moments after opening statements in the dramatic trial.

“It didn’t sit right with us when mom passed,” said Michelle Giamarino, Rios’ daughter, “and we kept questioning each other.”

The arrests last year grabbed headlines, when the New York State Attorney General’s office charged a group of nine caregivers in the October 2012 death of Rios, a retired dental assistant. Authorities claimed the caregivers’ “failure to act” led to Rios’ death.

They were also accused of covering up their actions.

“How can you be that negligent?” Giamarino said.

Rios, who had had a tracheotomy, died at the Medford Multicare Center for Living a month after being admitted for rehab.

Prosecutors alleged that on Oct. 26, 2012 – from 1:40 a.m. to 3:36 a.m. — nurses, therapists and aides ignored audible and visual alarms to put Rios on a ventilator.

“I cried a lot, but now, I’m very angry,” Giamarino said.

One of the nine defendants, licensed professional Kethlie Joseph, was charged with criminally negligent homicide.

Joseph was a specialist in treating residents on ventilators, and allegedly admitted that she never read a doctor’s orders that Rios was to be connected to a ventilator. Joseph is also accused of ignoring alarms and messages to her pager when Rios stopped breathing.

Joseph’s friends and family came to trial in droves to support her Tuesday.

Also charged are:

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• Registered nurse Kimberly Lappe, who is accused of failing to respond to alarms and falsely claiming in notes that staff did heed the alarms;

• Licensed practical nurse Victoria Caldwell, who is accused of telling investigators that Rios was alive and looked up at her when Rios had likely been dead for some time;

• Aide Christina Corelli, who is accused of falsely claiming that Rios was breathing normally and respiratory alarms were not beeping;

• Aide Patricia DiGiovanni, who was assigned to Rios’ bedside and allegedly did not respond to alarms;

• Licensed administrator David Fielding, who is accused of concealing computer records documenting the alarms that were allegedly ignored;

• Nursing home director of respiratory therapy Christine Boylan, accused of the same charges as Fielding;

• Registered nurse Marianne Fassino, who was in charge of the ventilator unit at the time of Rios’ death and allegedly did not respond to alarms for almost two hours;

• Aide Leona Gordon, who was allegedly responsible for watching the alarm monitor in the nurse’s station.

The defendants have been divided into groups. The first trial will have two juries – one for Joseph and the other for four of the other caregivers. The remainder of the defendants will have separate attorneys for a second trial.

The process being used in the case is rare, but has been used before. Defense attorneys said the method would provide a better chance of a fair trial.

“A lot of the evidence that they are hearing against, let’s say, defendant C might spillover to defendant A — and (the jury) might say: ‘This is really bad. They are guilty,’” said defense attorney Richard Stafford.

Defense attorneys said the Attorney General’s office jumped to erroneous conclusions in a flawed and incomplete investigation. They said Rios had been at poor health, and said the cause of her death was a heart attack and was not attributable to a ventilator.

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Both trials will take five to six weeks, and will include surveillance video in the nursing home. Expert witnesses will also testify, including the forensic pathologist who testified at the O.J. Simpson trial.