Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New York, New York: Jawara Henry, 27, asphyxiated while restrained at a state psychiatric facility.

Jawara Henry, age 27

Autistic NY patient's death ruled homicide
The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 7, 2010; 9:38 AM

NEW YORK -- The death of a severely autistic patient who had been allegedly restrained at a state-run psychiatric facility in New York has been ruled a homicide.

New York City's medical examiner determined Jawara Henry died of asphyxiation by neck and chest compression on Saturday.

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan tells The New York Times "any decisions regarding a criminal prosecution will be made down the road."

Family lawyer Gary Douglas tells the paper the 27-year-old functioned at the level of a young child but had no history of outbursts. He says the man's mother had seen injuries on her son before. Henry had been at the Staten Island facility for about a year.

The facility declined to comment due to the investigation.

Liverpool, UK: Angela Owen, 45, dies after waiting seven months for a hernia operation

Autistic woman died after seven month hernia operation wait

Dec 15 2010 by Tom Bristow, Liverpool Echo

AN AUTISTIC woman died after a seven month wait for an operation.

Yesterday Southport hospital, where she died, was criticised at an inquest for negligence.

Angela Owen, 45, from Skelmersdale was due to have an operation on a hernia in April last year.

But after an hour delay the operation was cancelled. Her name then fell off the waiting list for seven months.

On December 19 she was taken to Southport A&E where she later died of a strangulated hernia.

A hospital spokesman denied negligence, but apologised for an unacceptable delay.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Rancho Bernardo, California: Katherine Riley, 26, killed while crossing the street

RANCHO BERNARDO: Woman hit and killed while crossing the street
December 10, 2010
North County Times

RANCHO BERNARDO ---- A 26-year-old woman with autism was hit by a car and killed Thursday morning while crossing the street to change buses, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office.

Katherine Riley, of San Diego, was killed around 9:40 a.m. Thursday while running across Black Mountain Road to switch from a northbound transit bus to a southbound transit bus. Riley was struck by a private-passenger vehicle in the southbound lane.

The vehicle stopped immediately and witnesses called paramedics, who found Riley unresponsive with numerous traumatic injuries.

Riley was taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla where doctors pronounced her dead.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Crestline, California: Denise Snyder kills her autistic grandson, 9, then herself

Crestline woman fatally shoots grandson, self

October 19, 2010

CRESTLINE, Calif. (KABC) -- A Crestline woman fatally shot her 9-year-old grandson and herself Monday, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff's deputies and Crest Forest Fire personnel responded to a report of two people shot at a residence on the 500 block of Springy Path in Crestline Monday.

At about 5:30 p.m., Crestline resident James Snyder discovered his wife and his grandson at the home. They both had gunshot wounds. Officers and paramedics determined both were dead.

A sheriff's dept. homicide team was summoned and began a murder investigation.

Sheriff's detectives assert that Denise Snyder, 50, shot her grandson and then shot herself. The Snyders had custody of their grandson since his birth, according to the department. The grandson was reportedly diagnosed with autism.

"To me, I think she couldn't handle the kid, because it wasn't hers, it was her grandkid," said neighbor Mario Julian. "And we did hear her yelling at him a lot, quite a bit, and figured that was normal."

Julian said he spoke to the husband, who said his wife was taking the prescription drug Oxycontin. According to the husband, she was out of medication and may have suffered a breakdown.

"He's saying that she was taking them like six pills a day," said Julian.

Related Content

link: Autism Speaks - Autism Response Team

"This is a small community, so we're all just freaking out about this," said Crestline resident Stevan Oerlemans. "This just doesn't happen up here."

The investigation was ongoing Tuesday.

Anyone with information related to the case was asked to call homicide detectives at (909) 387-3589 or (800) 78-CRIME.

If you have a child with autism or know someone who does, help is available to get you through those tough times. Call the Autism Response Team at 888-AUTISM2 (288-4762) or send an e-mail to

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stockholm, Sweden: 21-year-old hangs self

Young Swedish man commits cyber suicide

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Oct. 12 (UPI) -- Saying that his life is "simply too hard," a young autistic man committed suicide during a live broadcast on the Internet, police in Sweden say.

Marcus James, 21, hanged himself in his apartment southwest of Stockholm about 20 minutes before police arrived after being tipped off by the public, Sweden's The Local reported Tuesday.

James posted on the popular Internet forum Flashback Monday that he planned to kill himself and would broadcast his suicide live on a Web cam.

He also provided a link with login information to access photos of his hanging and posted his final thoughts on Facebook. He said he loved his family but cannot live for others.

"I have a good life, studying at my own pace, have my own apartment, good income from the regional social insurance office," he wrote. "Have Asperger syndrome/ high-functioning autism."

Police performed CPR when they arrived at his apartment but a spokeswoman said it was too late.

An investigation of the death is under way.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Salmon, Idaho: Seven-Year-Old Drowns

Body of 7-year-old boy found in Salmon River
by Associated Press & KTVB

SALMON, Idaho -- Lemhi County officials say the body of a 7-year-old boy has been found in the Salmon River.
Officials say a resident walking the river bank near Salmon spotted the body at about 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
Investigators are looking into the case as a possible drowning.
Salmon Police Chief K.V. Selker says the boy has severe autism and his home borders Kids Creek. He says it is likely the boy got out of the backyard and fell into the creek. The creek then feeds into the Salmon River. The boy's body was about a hundred yards from his home.
Detectives sent the boy's body to Idaho Falls for an autopsy. Until that's complete investigators say there are more people to talk to, and the investigation is ongoing.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Colorado Springs: 13-year-old autistic boy and sibling killed by mother

Essex Lane deaths apparent murder-suicide

A mother apparently shot her two children in their home Monday while her husband was at work, then turned the gun on herself, Colorado Springs police said an autopsy by the El Paso County coroner determined.

The bodies of Rene Ogden, 38, and her twin 13-year-old son and daughter were found in the family’s home at 1941 Essex Lane east of Wasson High School by Tommy Ogden around 3:30 p.m.

Rene Ogden, son Chase and daughter Olivia died of gunshot wounds to the head, the coroner said.

The children’s deaths are the 20th and 21st homicides in Colorado Springs this year.

Police spokesman Sgt. Steve Noblitt said the children’s deaths are still under investigation but provided no information on whether a suspect is being sought, if anyone else had been in the house or if more than one weapon was used.

An officer guarding the home Tuesday said there was no sign of a break-in.

Police offered no explanation for the apparent murder-suicide. Neighbors said the son was autistic, although none said they socialized much with the family or knew them well.

Rene Ogden spent a lot of her time on the Internet, corresponding with people through Facebook and playing games on the social networking site, according to people she befriended online.

One of those, Brad Ake, who lives in Texas where Rene Ogden attended high school, said the two often talked about birth defects and raising children with developmental disabilities. Ake’s daughter had severe birth defects and died very young.

Ake and others who chatted with her, said she loved her children, but that she talked about struggling with depression and loneliness.

“She was very sad most of the time,” Ake said in an interview with The Gazette on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, flowers and other mementos were placed at the doorway of the rented home in the neighborhood near Constitution Avenue and Academy Boulevard. Tommy Ogden, who had been questioned by police about the deaths, went inside briefly, then left, a neighbor across the street said.

The family moved to Colorado Springs while her husband was in the Army. Tommy Ogden had served at least one combat tour in Iraq with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, a former Fort Carson unit now based at Fort Hood, Texas.

In happier times, Rene Ogden had posted the following on

“About My Personal Life I have been living it up from Hawaii to Colorado with my wonderful husband and kids! We have been married since July of 1996. His name is Tom Ogden, who is now 36, and he has been in the Army for 19 years. We married in Hawaii in July of 1996, where we lived for two more years and then moved here to Colorado Springs in May of 1998. We may end up back in the Golden Triangle Area (in Texas) eventually. It looks like that is where my husband’s job is considering transferring him to. Although right now he is serving one year in Iraq. Operation Iraqi Freedom. We have a beautiful set of twins ... Chase Garrett and Olivia Brianna who were born in 1997.”

The children attended Colorado Springs School District 11’s Galileo School of Math and Science on Union Boulevard, where a short assembly was held Tuesday to inform students about the tragedy and to let them know counselors were available for them.

Thursday, a sixth-grade classmate of the twins, accompanied by his mother, Carla Garcia, drove up to the Essex Lane house.

The were staring at the house when they were told about the autopsy results.

“With the wife being here with the autistic kid and the husband deployed, that’s hard on a mother,” Garcia said. “Everybody’s upset about it. There were kids involved. They didn’t do anything to anybody.”

Garcia, who lives near Constitution Avenue and Union Boulevard, said residents in the area also had been worried about their own safety during the past three days.

“We thought there was a killer on the loose,” she said.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Houston, Texas: Asher Brown, age 13, shoots himself after being bullied

Asher Brown, age 13

Parents: Bullying May Have Led To Son's Suicide
Student, 13, Said He Was Bullied At Hamilton Middle School
POSTED: Wednesday, September 29, 2010
UPDATED: 5:22 pm CDT September 29, 2010

HOUSTON -- The parents of a 13-year-old northwest Harris County student who fatally shot himself said their son may have committed suicide because he was bullied.

Asher Brown's parents said their son was a constant target of bullies at Opal Hamilton Middle School.

They described him as a compassionate and loving child who was tormented by relentless bullying.
"Yes, he was gay. He was also Buddhist. He was also a child with a disability," said David Truong, Asher's stepfather.

Truong said Asher may have had a form of autism called Asperger's syndrome.
Asher also spoke with a lisp and was a bit clumsy, his parents said.

Truong said he believes Asher was bullied to death.

"It was the same group of kids. It was like a pack -- a pack of animals," Truong said.
Truong said Asher told him he was gay on Thursday morning. Later that day, he found the boy dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Truong said Asher came to a breaking point after another boy kicked Asher down a flight of stairs twice while at school and kicked all of his books out of his hands.

"Eyewitnesses (said Asher) turned and said, 'You better apologize or I'm going to kill myself.' The kid was like, 'Whatever,'" Truong said.

Truong said the faculty at Hamilton treated his complaints, which he claims included three phone calls and three visits, with the same attitude -- brushing him aside and ignoring him.

The school said in a statement, "There was no report from students, staff members or the parents that this student was bullied while at Hamilton Middle School. Such a report would have been investigated and consequences would have followed the Student Code of Conduct."

Truong disagreed and is calling for justice for Asher. He said he wants students to follow what he calls "the Asher rule" -- if you see bullying, speak up.

"Please, rally -- rally, rally around your children," Truong said. "If this is the wild west, circle the wagons around your children."

Truong said they may take legal action against the school.

Suicide is said to be the third leading cause of death for teenagers. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, as many as 25 suicides are attempted for each one that is completed.

Child psychologists provided the following advice for parents of children who may be bulled.
Open communication every day is critical for parents and children, and parents should let their children know they are on their side.

Parents are also urged to talk to teachers at school and find out if they have an anti-bullying/harassment policy.

A record should be kept of what is happening, who is involved and how often it is happening.
Parents should also follow up to see if any progress is made. If not, meet with school administrators and keep notes of the meetings.

In the worst cases, parents should contact law enforcement if a child's been physically assaulted or threatened. An attorney may also need to be contacted.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Overton, Texas: Adam Wilson, 21, stabs father, David Wayne Wilson, to death

Adam Wilson, age 21

Fear and Grief: Autism and Murder Rip East Texas Family Apart
by Dan Burns

The police found David Adam Wilson, a 21-year-old with autism, hiding in the tool shed beside his rural East Texas home. "We tried to read him his Miranda rights," Lt. Tony Dana told me in a telephone interview, "but he was extremely agitated. He didn't understand what we were saying. We terminated the interview immediately. Dad can't tell us what happened, because he's dead."

Adam Wilson is charged with murder. Normally sweet and calm, he'd reportedly been "drastically different" lately. Raging out of control on Monday, August 16, Adam threatened a family member and then begged for help. His family took him to the emergency room to have his medication adjusted. Allegedly, hours later, during an argument, he stabbed his father with a kitchen knife. The police found Mr. Wilson dead in a recliner. The prescription is still unfilled.

danburnsbenwater.JPG When I heard the story last Saturday I went packing for East Texas. I drove past Adam's house on FM 2039, a beautiful stretch of road that runs over the hills and through the piney woods between the villages of Overton and Arp. That night my 23-year-old autistic son Ben and his mom, Sue, camped and swam in the clear shady waters in Tyler State Park Lake, toes sinking in the soft lake bottom. How lucky I was to be at peace. Since Ben's diagnosis nearly two decades ago, we've been on a bumpy road towards healing. Had events taken a different turn, had we not received the help we needed, the person bleeding to death in that recliner, or hiding in that shed, alone, afraid, ashamed, and in despair, could have been me. Or Sue. Or Ben.

"Autism is literally ripping families apart in horrendous and tragic ways," said Teresa Conrick, in a comment posted in Age of Autism. "People are dying weekly -- nightmare accidents of drownings, traffic deaths, exposure to the elements, locked in a vans, inappropriate medications, psychosis, suicides and homicides." Parents killing their children. Now children killing their parents.

What's going on?

First, the incidence of autism has reached epidemic proportions. A 2009 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has increased from 1 in 10,000 in the year 2000 to 1 in 110. That's about 1 in 60 boys. But that study is based on data from 2007. Anecdotal evidence from doctors who treat autistic children put the incidence today much higher -- one in thirty or even more. Ask an elementary school teacher and you may get an eye-popping answer.

Second, autism is still classified and treated as a psychiatric disorder, so it is "treated" with psychotropic drugs such as Valium, Ritalin, Thorazine, and Haldol, which do not heal anything and too often exacerbate the symptoms, including violent aggression, which they are supposed to mask. Treated as an immunological disease like allergies and ADHD, autism is sometimes reversible. But pediatricians aren't trained in appropriate biomedical treatments, and insurance usually doesn't cover them.

Third, the face of autism is changing. Eighty percent of these ASD kids are under age 22. Within five years, half a million young adults with autism will age out of the school system and spill into communities unprepared for them. A meltdown by a four-year-old in the library or grocery store is an inconvenience. A meltdown by 21-year-old is potentially lethal.

Fourth, after decades of stress, parents are snapping. Vicki Martin, RN, has a 14-year-old daughter with autism. "In my community," she says, "most of the adults with autism live at home with their parents. Many parents feel as if they have no choice. Kids are aging out of school, their primary support system. Most don't have jobs, and vocational and day-habilitation programs are not geared toward adults with autism. So these young adults are isolated in their homes under the care of their exhausted parents, many facing their own health issues related to the stress of 24/7 care for their severely disabled kids."

Lt. Tony Dana would not release the police report to me because the District Attorney hasn't seen it yet. In due time, though, there are questions that should and must be examined more closely in the public eye:

• What medications was Adam taking, and in what combinations? Did they have the potential for psychotic side effects?
• Was he receiving appropriate biomedical and behavioral treatment?
• How about Adam's dad? Was he suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? It is almost impossible to raise an autistic child without extended family support, yet many single parents do. Adam's mom had long ago moved on.
• What was his relationship with father? With the other family members? Did they love and care for Adam?
• What kind of support was the family receiving from friends and neighbors and community services?

Adam Wilson puts a face on a social issue that's likely to get worse before it gets better. But it is also a terrible personal tragedy. "Jail might not be the best place for Adam," said Lt. Dana, "but that's where he is for now." I pray for frightened, orphaned Adam and his grieving family.

Dan E. Burns, Ph.D., is Adult Issues Liaison for AutismOne and the author of Saving Ben: A Father's Story of Autism. Burns is developing the Autism Trust USA, modeled on The Autism Trust (U.K.) and focused on the creation of new campus communities where adults with autism can work, live and improve their skills and talents in a creative and supportive environment.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tuscon, Arizona: 5 Year old boy drowns in a golf course pond

Autistic boy drowns in Tucson pond

Aug. 19, 2010 05:05 PM
Associated Press

TUCSON - A 5-year-old autistic boy has drowned in a pond at a Tucson golf course.

Authorities say the boy was pulled from the pond at the Santa Rita Golf Course on Thursday afternoon.

The victim and his family live in a home near the golf course and the boy apparently wandered away from the house sometime before 1 p.m.

The boy's father called 911 to report him missing. Pima County Sheriff's deputies arrived in the area and began searching for the boy and he was found by deputies in the golf course pond.

Deputies begin CPR on the boy until paramedics arrived. He was taken by helicopter to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The name of the victim has not been released yet.

Read more:

Houston, Texas: 2 year old Khoa Nguyen dies after being left in car while autistic brother has seizure

Toronto boy, 2, dead after being left in car in 50 C heat
Postmedia News August 19, 2010

HOUSTON — A two-year-old Toronto boy has died after being left in a blistering hot car for two hours in a suburb of Houston, Texas.

According to police officials, the toddler — identified as Khoa Nguyen — was forgotten in the vehicle when his older, autistic brother had a seizure as the family was returning from the grocery store. The family, who were visiting relatives in Houston, had gone inside with their seven-year-old son to retrieve medication, leaving the younger boy behind.

When they returned to the SUV two hours later, he was already unconscious. He was later pronounced dead at a north Houston hospital.

“On a day like today, the interior temperature (of a car) can rise almost 20 degrees,” said Det. Sgt. Ben Beall, of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department. “Unless you’re found almost immediately, (there’s) a good probability you’re going to die.”

Houston police said the case will be referred to a grand jury, which will decide if charges will be laid.

The vehicle’s internal temperature was recorded at about 50 C.

Read more:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Peoria, Illinois: 22 Year old man with developmental age of a toddler beats housmate to death

Journal Star
Posted Aug 10, 2010 @ 09:08 PM

PEORIA — The attorney for a developmentally disabled man who was indicted Tuesday for allegedly beating to death a housemate last week said his client shouldn't be in jail.

"He doesn't have the mental capacity to have a criminal intent," said attorney Timothy Newlin of Joey R. Brooks, 22, who was indicted on one count of first-degree murder for the death of John Vogel. He will next appear in court Thursday to be arraigned on the charge. Until then, he remains in custody at the Peoria County Jail on $500,000 bond.

And that's what has Newlin and Brooks' parents upset. They believe this case is different than others. Newlin said his client has an IQ of 12, and the mental age of a 21/2-year-old. He's diagnosed with profound mental retardation and autism, the attorney said, reading from a 2009 report.

"He's essentially a toddler; you don't lock up toddlers," he said.

Rather, the parents, who live in Peoria County, said they believe their son should be moved.

"He should be at the Jacksonville Developmental Center with supervision and not locked up, and I agree with them completely," Newlin said.

Brooks was arrested Friday afternoon after sheriff's deputies responded to 1042 N. Emily Place, a duplex that is run by Trinity Services and houses several developmentally disabled people. There they found Vogel lying on the ground with head injuries and Brooks in another room, curled up in the fetal position.

Police believe Brooks repeatedly hit Vogel in the head after an argument with another person. A mental fitness test has been ordered, and Newlin said he doesn't believe the report is finished yet.

Brooks moved there about a year ago after spending nine years at the Hope School Learning Center in Springfield. Newlin said there is no evidence that Brooks had any problems while at that school. He did say the 22-year-old had no criminal history.

Newlin said he tried to communicate with Brooks on Sunday during a jailhouse visit and got the sense that he "did not understand" what was happening.

The attorney said his client is nonverbal and used a 20-pound Communication Assistance Device while at Trinity house. The device apparently has a key pad like interface with pictures that would allow Brooks to convey what he wants.

Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or

West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 12-Year-Old Boy, Frank Marasco, With Autism Killed in West Philly Fire

Frank Morasco, age 12

NBC Philadelphia
Updated 6:10 AM EDT, Mon, Aug 7, 2010

Philadelphia police say a 12-year-old autistic boy was killed in a house fire in West Philadelphia Saturday.

Investigators say the fire broke out shortly before 7 p.m. at a home located at 137 South 55th Street. The young boy was discovered in a room on the second floor of the home, according to investigators.

Firefighters were able to rescue a woman from the second floor roof. The victim was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for treatment.

The fire was placed under control around 7:30 p.m. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries. One of the firefighters fell through the stairway while trying to save the little boy. Both were also transported to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for treatment.

Officials say there were no working fire alarms in the home.

"We saw smoke alarms in the home. Unfortunately the smoke alarm that I found did not have the cover removed before you put it into service," Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.

Four homes suffered damage, according to firefighters.

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire.

Fatal W. Philly fire sparks 'brownout' policy questions

Philadelphia Daily News 215-854-5218

..."A lot of things went wrong there, but the brownout isn't one of them," Ayers said. "You have to do the right thing for your family, and the key is to have an escape plan."

Neighbors said that a man who lived in the house was trying to get the 12-year-old out of the house but the boy pulled away and ran back in.

Ayers said that families should coach, and create escape plans for, people with mental and physical disabilities.

The boy's body was found on the second floor, fire officials said. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

"It was much, much too late for the boy to be saved," Ayers said.

Neighbors described Frank as a happy child who had moved onto the cozy block with his family last year.

"He was just getting used to us," said Rubye Weaver, 72, whose home also was damaged. "He was a happy young man."

Neighbors said that the boy didn't talk much and he loved playing ball on the porch or on the sidewalk with neighbors and the man who lived with him.

"He would catch the ball and kiss it," said Virginia DeShields, who lived three houses down. "He had a 'Toy Story' doll he would carry all the time. He was a very happy kid."

Fire union leaders said that the maintenance cited by Ayers normally would have been done during the afternoon, and if Engine 57 were not browned out the maintenance could have been completed before the start of the night shift.

"It's a tragedy what happened," said Local 22 trustee Mike Kane...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Columbia, Maryland: Deaths of Tracy Hawks and Christopher Melton, mother and son, ruled murder-suicide

Howard County police complete two-month investigation
By Kellie Woodhouse
Posted 8/09/10

After a two-month investigation, Howard County police have classified as a murder-suicide the death of a Columbia woman and her 18-year-old disabled son.

Police say that Tracy Hawks, 47, used a gas generator June 4 to take her life and that of her son, Christopher Melton, who had autism and mild mental retardation.

New details of the June incident reveal that Hawks suffered from depression.

On the evening of June 4, Hawks’ mother and father called Hawks repeatedly, according to a police report. When she failed to answer, the two went to her Hickory Ridge home to check on Hawks, who had been threatening suicide for more than a month, the father told police. The father used a key to enter the residence, noticed a generator in the dining room and found Hawks and Melton in Hawks’ bedroom, lifeless, a police report states.

He called police, who arrived minutes later. They determined that the “newly purchased” generator was depleted of gas and located a red gas can that was nearly empty, according to the police report. The report states that the two died from suffocation.

Melton, a junior at Atholton High School, participated in the school’s Academic Life Skills special education program. According to the report, his teacher told police that it would not “have occurred to Christopher that his mother would hurt him.”

According to the report, police determined that Melton “was a special needs adult who would not have the capacity for deducing that his mother’s actions would render such life-threatening consequences,” and as such was killed by his mother.

Court documents and the police report show that Hawks was in financial debt, at risk of losing her job as a pharmaceutical rep, in the midst of a divorce and facing criminal charges for misusing her husband’s credit card.

Hawks’ father and sister, who were not named in the report, told police that she struggled with periods of depression throughout her life.

The father said Hawks had been diagnosed with depression two months before her death. According to the police report, Hawks’ sister said, “Tracy had told her best friend... that she was going to commit suicide and take her son with her.”

Because of her threats, Hawks’ family was watchful of her, they told police. Hawks’ sister said they tried not to leave her alone for an extended period of time, the report states.

The sister told police that Hawks had exhibited several warning signs. She told police “she watched Tracy cry every day for two months,” that she received ominous text messages from Hawks, and that Hawks had begun giving her possessions away.

In the report, police said Hawks’ home was “in complete disarray” and was cluttered with paper documents, plastic containers and plastic bags. The report also noted that the residence was sparsely furnished.

According to the sister, Hawks had once been a vigilant homeowner. She told police that “Tracy used to keep her house very neat and orderly, buy expensive stuff and cook (but) she had stopped doing all of these things,” the report states.

On April 26, 2010, the family tried to force Hawks to seek help at Howard County General Hospital, but Hawks would not admit herself into the hospital’s mental health ward voluntarily per the hospital’s guidelines, the report states.

Shortly afterward, Hawks stopped taking her prescription medication, her sister told police.

Hawks’ struggles were first documented in the fall of 2009, when Hawks and her husband, Leslie Hawks, filed protective orders in Howard County District Court.

On August 2009, Tracy Hawks alleged that her husband became “extremely volatile and abusive” when he drank. Hawks said she had bruises on her arms “due to defending myself from his attacks,” court documents state.

She also alleged that her husband had threatened her with an unregistered gun.

The accusations were never proven and the request for a protective order was denied.

In another request filed in October 2009, Hawks said her husband had choked her in 2006 when angered by a high credit card bill, and that he was verbally abusive.

Leslie Hawks also requested a protective order in October, alleging that Tracy Hawks pushed him face-first into a wall.

Both orders were denied.

In a divorce filing, Leslie Hawks alleged that his wife had “harassed and humiliated him” in the presence of his son. In a separate criminal filing, he charged Tracy Hawks with stealing his credit card and accruing $18,000 of charges without his permission.

On May 25, 11 days before her suicide, the two attended a settlement conference for the divorce. According to David Titman, Leslie Hawks’ divorce lawyer, the conference went smoothly.

“There were no raised voices, there was no contentious discussions, it was all very routine,” he said. “Her suicide was a shock to both my client and myself.”

But that same day Hawks wrote an entry in her diary, which was included in the police report:

“I don’t feel that I am deserving of... love. I wish I was different or better. I am so lost,” she wrote. “I feel that my life is over. I have failed at everything. I cannot preserve anything.”

Family members, neighbors, and Melton’s special education teacher all told police Hawks and her son had a close relationship. Melton’s teacher said Hawks regarded her son as her “comforter,” the report states.

Hawks moved to Hickory Ridge in the fall of 2009 so her son could attend Atholton’s Academic Life Skills special education program, which was more tailored to his needs, the teacher told police. Before, Melton attended Mt. Hebron High School, in Ellicott City, for three years.

The teacher, who was not named in the report, told police that Melton’s attendance was “sporadic.” In the week before he died, Melton had not been in class at all, the police report states.

The teacher told police she had worked with Melton for eight years, and in that time she thought Hawks was over-protective of her son and “would not let people in her son’s life.”

The teacher told police Melton was a loving person and a good student.

“Chris was a great kid,” Mt. Hebron principal Scott Ruehl said in an interview. “He was very caring and welcoming.”

Melton’s teacher agreed.

He was the “most delightful, well-behaved child you ever knew,” the teacher told police, according to the report. “Every time someone looked at Christopher, he would smile.”

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Austintown, Ohio: Nathan Kinderdine, 7, drowns in pool at school

Nathan Kinderdine, age 7

Nathan Kinderdine, who had autism, has spent the past six weeks taking part in a summer enrichment program at the Leonard Kirtz School in Austintown.

It took less than five minutes for the Boardman 7-year-old known as a "runner" to wander away from his teachers and classmates and end up at the bottom of the school's indoor pool Tuesday.

While workers tried to revive him, Nathan later was pronounced dead at St. Elizabeth's Health Center. Now, police are trying to determine how he got into the pool and if a problem with one of its self-closing doors was the reason Nathan was able to enter that area.

"We're not rushing into it," said Austintown detective Sgt. Raynor Holmes. "We're trying to find the victim's whereabouts, and try and retrace where he went and where everything went from there. It's not the easiest thing to do, but that's what we have to look at."

A timeline in the police report shows that the doors to the pool area were locked just before noon. The last adult left the pool about ten minutes later.

About 12:35 p.m., two instructors took a group of six children into the nearby gym. One instructor first took in three kids, including Nathan because "he is a runner." The instructors then momentarily went into the hall to get three more children and, that's when they noticed Nathan was missing.

After a quick search, by 12:40 p.m. a custodian had unlocked the pool doors and found Nathan floating face down in about three and a half feet of water. The custodian jumped in to get him, and the boy was taken to the school's clinic, where nurses performed CPR.

After the incident, an officer fully opened a door leading from the boys' restroom into the pool 10 times. The door is supposed to lock from the outside whenever it closes. That door closed and locked, like it's supposed to, only once.

Officials with Leonard Kirtz are doing everything they can to find out what happened as well.

"We're waiting on the coroner, and Austintown Police Department report to see what they believe was the cause and the time frame involved," said Superintendent Larry Duck. "From there we'll try to look at what needs to be done to prevent this from ever happening again."

Linda Finlay's son, 13-year-old Joshua Finlay, attended the same program as Nathan. While the Salem resident attends West Branch Middle School, autistic children are required to participate in summer programs, Finlay said.

Finlay said she knew something was wrong when Joshua came home with a letter from the school Wednesday that stated the week would continue as scheduled, but there was an incident that involved a student in the swimming pool.

"It's really bad," Finlay said. "I was up all night crying. I feel really bad for the parents."

She said Joshua understood what happened at his school Tuesday. His reaction surprised her, she added.

"He was really shocked," Finlay said. "He said, 'this is a really tragic thing that happened'."

Finlay said she gave her son a choice on whether to attend school Wednesday. He decided to go, she said, but left after lunch.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Langhorne, Pennsylvania: Felony charges filed in heat death of Bryan Nevins

By Larry King

Bucks County prosecutors this afternoon filed felony neglect charges against a suspended Woods Services counselor in the July 25 heat-related death of Bryan Nevins, a severely autistic resident of the facility in Langhorne.

Stacey J. Strauss, 40, of Philadelphia, was charged with neglect of a care-dependent person, involuntary manslaughter and recklessly endangering another person after allegedly leaving Nevins, 20, in a parked van outside Woods Services on a day of record heat.

Nevins was found dead five hours after returning from a field trip to Sesame Place. His parents, who live in New York, have said their son had the mental ability of a two-year-old. Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler has said that Nevins would have been unable to operate the door handles of the van because of his severe autism.

Nevins and his twin brother, who also is autistic, had lived at Woods Services for years, his parents have said. They withdrew the other brother after Bryan Nevins' death. The men's father, retired New York City homicide detective William Nevins, told the Associated Press last week that he believed his son died because of one person's neglect.

Investigators agreed with that assessment.

"Mr. Nevins' death was not simply a tragic accident," said a statement issued by Heckler and Middletown Township Acting Public Safety Director Patrick McGinty. "Rather, his death resulted from the criminal failure of the defendant to discharge her assigned responsibilities."

The charges allege that Strauss and another Woods Services worker took Nevins and three other clients in a van to Sesame Place, near the Oxford Valley Mall. Nevins inexplicably was left behind in the van after their return to the facility around noon.

"It is undisputed that ... Mr. Nevins was not escorted from the van, nor was he returned to the residence by Ms. Strauss as was her responsibility," the statement said. "Instead, he was left in the van on one of the hottest days of this terribly hot summer."

It has been estimated that the temperature inside the van reached as high as 150 degrees, and that Nevins died within an hour of being left there. Bucks County Coroner Joseph Campbell determined that Nevins died of hyperthermia, and that the death was accidental.

The death came one year after 2-year-old Daniel Slutsky died of hyperthermia after being accidentally left in the back of a van outside a day-care center in Penndel, Bucks County.

Then-District Attorney Michelle Henry filed involuntary manslaughter charges against Rimma Shvartsman, a neighbor of the toddler's family who operated the center and had driven the boy there. A Bucks County Court jury found her not guilty of all charges in March.

The neglect charge against Strauss, a first-degree felony, is more severe. It carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

Prosecutors said police had notified Strauss's attorney of the charges, and that she has been directed to surrender to Middletown Township authorities.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Superior, Colorado: Coroner says baby, Rylan Rochester, died of suffocation

Rylan Rochester, age 6 months

A 6-month-old Superior boy who was allegedly killed by his mother, a mental-health counselor, died of suffocation, Boulder County Coroner Thomas Faure said Wednesday.

Faure said Rylan Rochester, who was pronounced dead at Avista Adventist Hospital on June 1, was the victim of a homicide.

Rylan's mother, Stephanie Rochester, a mental-health counselor at Children's Hospital at the time, is charged with first- degree murder and child abuse. Rochester told police that she thought Rylan had autism and that she felt responsible.

She said she felt she and her husband couldn't have fun while caring for a severely autistic child, according to the affidavit. Rochester also said she didn't want Rylan to suffer and put a plastic shopping bag and a blanket over the baby's face to kill him, according to police.

Her husband, Lloyd Rochester IV, has not been charged.

Colwich, Kansas: Mason Medlam dies after being pulled from farm pond

Mason Medlam, age 5

The Wichita Eagle

WICHITA | Mason Medlam, the 5-year-old boy who was found submerged in a farm pond near Colwich, Kan., on Wednesday, has died.

He died this morning at a Wichita hospital, a spokeswoman for the hospital said.

Mason, who had autism, had been missing for more than a half-hour from his home in the 4200 block of North 183rd West before he was found just before 11:15 a.m.

The pond is about a quarter-mile from his house and a mile southwest of Colwich.

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or

Bronx, New York: , Micaela Jackson and autistic son, Kenneth Holmes, found dead in suspected murder-suicide

Kenneth Holmes, age 12

BY Kevin Deutsch and John Lauinger
Thursday, July 29th 2010, 4:00 AM

Frustrated over the demands of raising an autistic child, police believe, a Bronx mother shot the boy to death before turning the gun on herself Wednesday night, cops said.

Micaela Jackson, 37, and Kenneth Holmes, 12, both killed by a gunshot to the head, were found in bed in the single mother's apartment on Loring Place in Morris Heights, police said.

The suspected murder-suicide - the second in as many weeks in the city - left Jackson's family and Kenneth's father shattered.

"I don't see the reason for any of this," said Kenneth Holmes Sr. "We were just getting ready to go to Jamaica, and now this."

Holmes, who was not married to Jackson but remained close with her, said he was in disbelief because Jackson had just been promoted at her job at Montefiore Medical Center.

"She was at a good point in her life," he said, tears streaming down his face as he glanced at a picture of his doe-eyed, curly-haired namesake.

Cops were called to the tragic scene shortly before 7:30 p.m. after Jackson's sister, worried because she could not reach her, went to the apartment, police said.

The door was locked and fastened with a chain from the inside, a fact that strengthened investigators' belief that the deaths were a murder-suicide, police said.

The sister got the building's super to gain entry, leading to the awful discovery. A 9-mm. pistol was recovered close to the bodies of mother and son, police said.

Jackson's heartbroken family gathered outside the apartment building last night, some crying, others shaking with grief.

"She's a good woman. She's a good mother," said Jackson's cousin, refusing to provide a name. "We're looking for answers. It's just a tragedy."

Neighbors said they would often see Jackson early in the morning, putting her son on the bus before leaving for work.

Neighbor Esmerelda Diaz, 22, said she recently saw Jackson chase after her son as he darted across the street.

"She really looked stressed out. She was so tired of screaming at him," she said. "Maybe he pushed her to the extreme and it came to this?"

Holmes could not accept that possibility last night, calling his boy "a gift."

"He was autistic, but he had charm," the devastated father said. "He had a great smile. Even if you had an evil heart, you would still love him."

Last Thursday, the bodies of a young mother and her four children were found amid the ruins of their burned Staten Island home.

Detectives have not made a final determination in the case, but believe Leisa Jones cut the throats of three of her children before setting the blaze that killed her and her youngest child.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Irving, Texas: Mother, Saiqa Akhter, calls 911 after strangling her children, Zain and Faryaal

After her two children were strangled to death, a Texas mother called police... on herself.

Saiqa Akhter, 30, was arrested on Monday night and is expected to be charged with capital murder for the death of her son Zain, 5, who died on Monday, according to the Dallas Morning News. Her daughter, Faryaal, died Tuesday evening.

The woman's uncle, Wasimul Haque, said Akhter had been depressed, the Associated Press reported.

"It looks like she had mental problems. I don't understand why she did it," said Haque.

Akhter called police around 5 p.m. on Monday from her Irving home, about 15 miles from Dallas. She told the operator she used a wire to strangle her children until they turned blue.

The uncle said Zain had autism and a severe speech impediment but was improving. He added that the kids' father, Rashid Akhter, was "totally broken."

Police said the woman was the only one at home at the time of the murder.

It isn't the couple's first brush with law enforcement. In May 2009, the parents were contacted by Child Protective Services after they left their son home alone to take their daughter, who was having respiratory problems, to the hospital.

"They admitted to it and they said they understand why it was dangerous to leave a child that young at home by themselves," said Marissa Gonzales, a CPS spokeswoman.

"They said they had been really concerned about their daughter and so they just hadn't been thinking but they were adamant that it wouldn't happen again."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

McAllen, Texas: Teen Lance Benson drowns in backyard pool

June 15, 2010 8:19 PM
Lindsay Machak
The Monitor

McALLEN — A family’s night of fun in the pool turned fatal Monday when 15-year old Lance Benson had a seizure and slipped beneath the water’s surface.

His family said the autistic teen suffered from convulsions that caused him to drown in their backyard pool on the 3100 block of Gull Street in McAllen.

Lance wasn’t swimming unattended, his aunt Rosie Garza said. His family was out enjoying the start of summer vacation when his father noticed something was wrong and found him at the bottom of the pool.

“It was an accident,” she said. “They swam every day.”

Garza, 51, of McAllen, recalls how much joy her nephew had when he was in the pool. He learned how to swim at the age of 3, and activities like swimming kept him at ease.

“He didn’t speak but he understood everything,” she said.

Lance was over 6 feet tall, but he knew how dangerous the pool could be and often stayed in the shallow end, Garza said. He was in the pool’s shallow area, where the water is 3 feet deep — when he had the seizure and drowned.

Lance attended Fossum Middle School and was excited every morning about going to school.

“He would put on his backpack and wait for the bus to come,” Garza said. “He really liked school.”

Garza said she would come over to see her two nephews, but it won’t be the same now that Lance is gone.

“He was beautiful,” she said. “I loved him so much.”

McAllen police continue to investigate the incident. No information was available about a possible autopsy or whether any criminal wrongdoing was suspected.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gray, Maine: Autistic Gray man, Benjamin McLatchie, 22, killed by his father Daniel McLatchie

Police say the man, who also shot himself, may have been worried about his son's care in the future.
By Dennis Hoey
Staff Writer

GRAY - A father shot and killed his autistic son Tuesday at their home on Yarmouth Road before turning the rifle on himself, Maine State Police said.

Cumberland County sheriff's deputies found the bodies of Daniel McLatchie, 44, and his son, Benjamin McLatchie, 22, in the family's driveway at 227 Yarmouth Road around 2:30 p.m.

The driveway, which is several hundred feet long, slopes down from Yarmouth Road -- part of Route 115 -- before ending at a white, two-story, Cape-style home surrounded by woods.

State police Sgt. Chris Harriman said the sheriff's deputies responded to a 911 call. He did not say who made the call.

He said it appeared that Daniel McLatchie was upset about what would happen to his autistic son after he and his wife died. He was a stay-at-home father, Harriman said.

Daniel McLatchie's wife, Allison McLatchie, 45, was at work when the shootings happened.

Harriman said she is a teacher at the Collaborative School on the Pineland Campus in New Gloucester. According to its website, the school serves students from ages 5 to 19 who are eligible for special education services because of emotional or related disabilities.

Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Marguerite Dewitt examined the bodies in Gray. She determined that McLatchie and his son died from gunshot wounds. A rifle was found near the bodies.

The bodies were taken to Augusta, where the state Medical Examiner's Office is expected to do autopsies today.

Harriman would not characterize the shootings as a murder-suicide, but said during a press conference, "We do believe there were no other people involved."

Mary Keith has lived nearby on Yarmouth Road for 10 years, but said she never got to know the McLatchies. She said the family moved into the neighborhood about six years ago.

Ginger Taylor of Brunswick, who writes the blog "Adventures in Autism" and whose 8-year-old son has been diagnosed with autism, said she doesn't know the McLatchies, but noted there are pressures for families with autistic children.

"Having an autistic child is, on a social level, very hard because it can be very isolating. You don't get to be part of those social circles anymore and you can't participate in the life of the town. There are just so many challenges," said Taylor, who has organized Greater Brunswick Special Families, a support group for parents of autistic children.

She said there is "a huge tidal wave of autistic children born in the 1980s and 1990s who are coming of age." Parents who care for autistic children at home need greater support, such as respite care and counseling, she said.

Taylor said one of the most common fears for parents with autistic children is what will happen to the children after the parents are gone.

"That is the big question -- what happens to our child when we die," she said. "We understand their needs better than anyone else. It really breaks my heart hearing what happened to this family. It shouldn't be like that."

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lexington, Kentucky: 21 year old Roland Campbell dies while being held down by police

Roland Campbell, 21

Mother wants answers in autistic son's death while in police custody
By Josh Kegley —
Posted: 12:00am on Apr 20, 2010

A mother has asked Lexington police and medical providers for details surrounding her autistic son's death after officers tried to handcuff him at a group home for mentally disabled people Sunday.

Roland Campbell, 21, was pronounced dead at St. Joseph Hospital at 4:33 p.m., according to a coroner's report. A cause of death had not been determined Monday, but preliminary autopsy results ruled out physical trauma and disease, Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn said. Ginn said Campbell had superficial lacerations on his hand.

Police received a call about 3:30 p.m. Sunday regarding "a mentally challenged subject that was out of control" at a home on Waco Road, police Cmdr. Ron Compton said.

At a Monday news conference, Compton said all Lexington officers are trained to respond to people with mental disabilities. He said that he didn't think the two responding officers had violated procedure but that an investigation was ongoing.

Roland Campbell's brothers, Roman Campbell, 21, and Ceasar Cook, 29, said they had been told that their brother had become enraged, turning over tables and breaking items inside the home.
Officers initially handcuffed Roland Campbell without incident, intending to take him into emergency detention. Compton said physical evidence at the scene and witnesses' statements indicated that Campbell was "a danger to himself and others."

Compton said that Campbell became violent and escaped his restraints, and that when officers were cuffing him a second time, he lost consciousness. The officers performed CPR until emergency medical personnel arrived.

Roman Campbell questioned whether police used too much force when restraining his brother, who he said was severely autistic and could not speak.

"He's confused. When they come in jumping on him like that, he's not thinking like we would be thinking, like, 'Oh, we got to calm down, the police are here,'" Roman Campbell said.

Pecola Campbell said that her son had lived with two other disabled men and a caretaker at the home since September and that he was normally "sweet and happy." She said Roland Campbell would not have acted violently unless he had been provoked or felt threatened.

Roland Campbell took several medications that affected his mood, she said. Roman Campbell said his brother might have acted violently if he had been given the wrong medication.

A statement released by Linda Hill, owner of Adult Daycare of Lexington Inc., said "the death was not the result of any action or inaction" of the ADC staff.

ADC, which runs the Waco Road home, contracts with the state Medicaid program to provide services under the Supports for Community Living program. The program allows people with intellectual or developmental disabilities to receive care in a homelike setting, rather than an institution.

Pecola Campbell said Roland Campbell liked listening to music and was fascinated by flashing lights on police cars. She said when he was agitated he was easily calmed by the feel of cotton fabric.

"Even though he couldn't speak, he was still the nicest person you could meet," said Roman Campbell.

Pecola Campbell said she would find out what happened to her son no matter what it took.

"I have nothing to lose now," she said.

Read more:

Nov 18, 2010
By Josh Kegley | Kentucky

The Fayette County coroner’s office will not conduct an investigation into the death of a 21-year-old autistic man in police custody.

Roland Campbell, who was severely autistic and could not speak, stopped breathing April 18 while being held down by two Lexington police officers and a caretaker at a group home owned by Adult Day Care Inc. of Lexington.

The cause of death was acute cardiorespiratory failure, a type of heart failure, according to an autopsy performed by the state’s associate chief medical examiner. The manner of death — whether the death was an accident, suicide, homicide or from natural causes — is listed as undetermined pending investigation into the events leading up to it.

Campbell’s autopsy was completed in July. The Fayette County coroner’s office released a copy to the Herald-Leader on Tuesday.

Both the state medical examiner and a state advocacy group for the mentally disabled suggested a coroner’s inquest, an investigation into the events surrounding the death.

“One option is to conduct a coroner’s inquest, which should include taking sworn testimony and going to the Waco residence to perform the re-enactment,” associate chief medical examiner John Hunsaker III said in the autopsy report.

However, Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn said Wednesday legal counselors advised him not to conduct the inquest.
Ginn said any such investigation should come from the courts if a civil lawsuit is filed. There is no guarantee, he said, an inquest would reveal anything.
“It could become inconclusive, which could put us back to square one,” he said. “I don’t see using the county’s funds for that.”

Individual investigations by the Lexington police department and Adult Day Care have been closed.

The police investigation was closed after the autopsy was completed in July, Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said. Police have said responding officers acted appropriately to subdue a man who was “a danger to himself and others.”

Police were called after Campbell began destroying items in the home and lashing out at caretakers, reports say.

An attorney for Adult Day Care, Jill Hall Rose, said the company’s internal investigation and an investigation by the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services ordered caretakers to be retrained to handle emergency situations, but no further actions were pending.

“The department found the home did nothing that contributed to the death,” she said.
Kentucky Protection and Advocacy, a group that supports the mentally disabled, has been investigating the death since May. Director Marsha Hockensmith said the investigations by police and Adult Day Care may not tell the whole story.

“You had so many folks involved in this,” Hockensmith said.

“It’s like there are pockets of investigation … being done, but they never meet in the middle,” she said.

Campbell’s heart failure was brought on by several conditions, including lack of oxygen, dehydration, physical exhaustion, possible medication intoxication and “autism-induced excited delirium during prone restraint,” the autopsy said.

Several incident reports from police and witness statements were included in the autopsy report.
According to documents, officers responded to an Adult Day Care group home at 2961 Waco Road after Campbell began destroying furniture and other items.

Campbell, who was breathing heavily and was covered in sweat, had pulled down a refrigerator and destroyed light fixtures, electrical outlets and furniture before jumping out a window, reports said.

Officers were called to take Campbell into emergency protective custody, police have said.
Two officers, Derrick Wallace and Matthew Smith, and Adult Day Care employee Eric Hatter had pinned down the flailing man with a blanket while trying to handcuff him when he “suddenly stopped moving.”

Officers performed CPR until an ambulance arrived.

According to reports, pepper spray and Tasers were not used on Campbell. At no point was pressure put on his neck or head, the report said.

However, police reports and witness statements do not say whether pressure was placed on Campbell’s back while he was being restrained.

According to the autopsy, “sitting, lying, kneeling, standing or manually pushing on the back needs to be considered because it may cause mechanical interference with breathing.”

The report continued, “Death via trunk compression typically (takes) a couple minutes, so establishing duration of such restraint, if any, is crucial to the investigation.”
Ginn said he did not see any criminal intent in the case.

“This is a civil litigation,” he said. “The courts would handle this rather than me.”
It was unclear Wednesday if a civil lawsuit will be filed.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Villa Rica, Georgia: Missing Autistic 6-Year-Old, Christian Dejons, Found Dead In Lake

Villa Rica boy's death ruled accidental

By Marcus K. Garner and Kristi E. Swartz

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

So, it was easy for the 6-year-old Villa Rica boy to wander off toward it.

Christian Dejons went missing on Wednesday. His body was found in the lake later that day.

His death was ruled as an accident, Douglas County Sheriff's Deputy Capt. Bobby Holmes said Friday.

"There's no foul play. He just wandered off and got in the water," Holmes told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday.

Dejon was spotted around 3:30 p.m. by a Douglas sheriff's deputy flying in a Georgia State Patrol helicopter over a lake in the Mirror Lake subdivision, Holmes said.

"The deputy saw something that looked like a body in the water," Holmes said. "They landed the helicopter, and the deputy went in and got the little boy and began CPR."

Emergency crews tried to revive the boy, and he was taken to Tanner Medical Center in Villa Rica where he was pronounced dead, authorities said.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Los Angeles, California: Steven Eugene Washington, 27, shot by police for odd behavior

Steven Eugene Washington, 27

Police Commission overrules chief, says LAPD shooting was wrong
The commission rejects the chief's finding that officers made mistakes but were ultimately justified in killing an unarmed autistic man.

By Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times
March 5, 2011

The civilian commission that oversees the Los Angeles Police Department has taken the rare step of rejecting a recommendation from the department's chief, ruling that two police officers were wrong when they fatally shot an unarmed autistic man last year.

Police Chief Charlie Beck concluded after a lengthy internal investigation that the officers made serious tactical mistakes during the brief, late-night encounter, but ultimately were justified in using deadly force against Steven Eugene Washington, 27.

About midnight on March 20, Officers Allan Corrales and George Diego, who worked in an anti-gang unit, were driving in a marked patrol car along Vermont Avenue in the city's Koreatown neighborhood. Both officers told investigators they heard a loud noise — which one described as a "deep boom" — behind them, according to Beck's report on the incident.

The Times obtained a redacted version of the report, which conceals the officers' names. Because of the redactions it is not possible to tell what role each officer played in the shooting.

Looking behind them, the officers saw Washington walking on the sidewalk in the opposite direction. They turned the car around and drove slowly behind him. The officer in the passenger seat rolled down his window and called out to the man, the report said. The officer told investigators Washington turned toward him, gave him a "hard" look, then reached into the waistband area of his pants, according to the report.

The officer who was driving pulled up alongside Washington. From a few feet away, his partner saw a dark object tucked into Washington's waistband and, convinced it was a gun, drew his own weapon and pointed it at the man, according to the report.

Washington, according to the officers' account in the report, turned abruptly and began to walk directly toward the patrol car as the driving officer brought the car to a stop. The officer in the passenger seat told investigators Washington had a "blank stare" as if in a daze and ignored orders to raise his hands.

From the car, the officer fired a single shot, then ducked down below the window. The shot struck Washington in the head.

Washington had no weapon. The dark object the officer observed was probably Washington's black cellphone. In describing the shooting, the officer initially told investigators that he had seen the object in Washington's hand and that Washington had pointed it at them as he approached.

Los Angeles County coroner's officials, however, found the cellphone still in its holster attached to Washington's waistband.

When pressed by investigators on whether he actually saw an object in Washington's hand, the officer backed away from his statement, saying, "I — honestly, it was so quick so then I was — it was a split second. You know, I couldn't tell."

After jumping out of the car, the driving officer also fired a single shot a few seconds after his partner fired, according to the report. The officer said Washington was still standing when he fired. Investigators were not able to determine if that was possible.

The shooting drew sharp criticism from Washington's family, who said the man was autistic and fearful of strangers. Civil liberties groups questioned the shooting, suggesting that the officers may have overreacted because they had not observed Washington doing anything criminal.

Based on the investigation's findings, Beck found Corrales and Diego had violated department policies in how they approached and engaged Washington, but decided it was reasonable for them to believe the man had a gun and intended to shoot them.

In a unanimous decision, however, the civilian commission found differently. The panel said Corrales and Diego violated department policies that govern when an officer can use lethal force.

The commission almost always follows the chief's recommendations on cases in which officers use serious force. Since Beck became chief more than a year ago, the panel has overruled him only three times out of dozens of cases.

Beck, who alone can impose discipline, initiated disciplinary proceedings against Corrales and Diego following the commission's finding, according to a senior LAPD official who requested anonymity because discipline cases are confidential. Beck declined to comment.

Paul Weber, president of the union representing rank-and-file officers, said he strongly disagreed with the commission's conclusion.

"I don't know what they expect officers to do," he said. "Wait until one of them is shot before they react?"

A commission report outlining its reasoning on the case is expected to be released early next week.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Greenville, South Carolina: Ryan Emory, 16, Killed in jump from Ambulance

Ryan Emory, Age 16

Teen Killed In Jump From Ambulance; Lawsuit Filed

Suit Filed On Anniversary Of 16-Year-Old's Death

POSTED: 11:16 am EDT March 23, 2011
UPDATED: 8:30 pm EDT March 23, 2011

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- WYFF News 4 has learned that the family of an autistic teenager who died a year ago after jumping out of a moving ambulance has filed a lawsuit against the ownership of Greenville Memorial Hospital.

Ryan Emory, 16, died on February 28, 2010 while being transferred by ambulance to a hospital in Columbia. Greenville Health Corporation owns Greenville Memorial Hospital and the hospital's Mobile Care Ambulance service.

Shortly after Ryan’s death, his mother, Shelley Hodge, said two local psychiatric hospitals had refused to admit him and that’s why he was being transported to Columbia.

According to the lawsuit, Ryan was admitted to the emergency department of Greenville Memorial Hospital on Feb. 26. Emergency department records said that Emory became “extremely agitated and volatile and displayed symptoms of aggression,” and that Ryan said he was going to “hurt himself and exhibited outbursts of anger, crying and screaming when he was informed he was to be transferred to William S. Hall Psychiatric Institute,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says that despite Ryan and his mother’s objections, arrangements were made to transfer him. The lawsuit says that the transfer form indicated known risks with the transfer and identified “security” as accompanying personnel.

The suit alleges that during transport, Ryan was allowed to release himself from the stretcher, open the back door of the ambulance and fall from the ambulance into Interstate 85.
Ryan died of multiple head and body trauma and cardiac arrest.

The wrongful death lawsuit alleges gross negligence and recklessness and seeks compensation for “conscious pain and suffering of Ryan prior to his death, as well as for his necessary funeral and burial expense and cost of probate.” The family is seeking a jury trial.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Brooklyn, New York: Tavon Turpin, 11, dies in fire after being left alone

Eleven-year-old autistic boy dies in fire; grandmother charged for leaving him alone

BY Oren Yaniv, Erin Durkin and Jonathan Lemire

Originally Published:Tuesday, February 16th 2010, 12:16 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 16th 2010, 11:21 PM

An autistic 11-year-old boy who can barely speak died in a fire that he set Tuesday when his grandmother left him alone in her Brooklyn apartment, officials and witnesses said.

Tavon Turpin used matches or a lighter to ignite the blaze in a hallway closet while his grandmother, Melinda McLain, 59, had gone to a deli near the Coney Island apartment, police said.

The grandmother was hit with criminal charges for leaving home without Tavon, who recently sparked a small fire by cooking a cell phone in a microwave, police and FDNY sources said.

"The kid didn't have a chance," said neighbor Wigberto Figueroa, 34. "It's so sad."

Tavon, who lived with McLain in Coney Islands's Ocean Towers, set the blaze around noon. Firefighters tried to revive the boy after pulling him from the 15th-floor flat, but he couldn't be saved.

McLain returned home, saw Tavon's lifeless body and broke down, weeping.

She was arrested Tuesday night at Coney Island Hospital, where she was being treated for smoke inhalation and asthma. Cops charged her with reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child, police sources said.

"She loved that boy," said neighbor Allen Pearsall, 48. "That little boy was this lady's life. None of us are perfect."

Four years ago in the same complex, a 7-year-old boy playing with a lighter sparked an inferno that killed three others. Ricardo (Rico) Clark, 16, and his two cousins, Jahgiria Sheffer, 10, and Jahnae O'Pharrow, 3, died after being trapped in their bedrooms.

Hours before Tuesday's fire, a 60-year-old grandmother died after surging flames trapped her inside her Queens apartment.

The blaze tore through the living room of Deborah Kelly's 17th-floor apartment in Lefrak City building just before 3 a.m., blocking the front door, witnesses said.The cause of that fire remains under investigation, but doesn't appear suspicious, FDNY officials said.

Neighbors said Kelly, a mother of two, had lived in the building for about 12 years. She shared her apartment with a daughter and a granddaughter. They weren't home at the time of the fire, neighbors said.

"She was a very lovely person," neighbor Loretta Henderson said. "They're a close family. It's sad."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Eden Prairie, Minnesota: Timothy Aleshire, 27, dies after being restrained at work

Timothy Aleshire, age 27

Gail Rosenblum: Could training in restraint use have averted this tragedy?

Nancy Aleshire is fighting mad. Her son, Timothy Aleshire, 27, was near death Wednesday, after being physically restrained by four people at his state-operated workplace in Eden Prairie.

Aleshire isn't making excuses for her son, who has struggled for years with schizophrenia, developmental disabilities and Asperger syndrome, a form of autism. She is candid about his violent history, including coming at his 4-foot-10 mother with a knife on a few occasions, and nearly strangling her on another. The key word, though, is "history."

For the past four or five years, Tim, who lives in a group home in Minneapolis with a trained, round-the-clock staff, has been making impressive progress. He was taking his antipsychotic medication and hadn't struck his mother in that entire time. He was not problem-free, but his emotional outbursts were fewer and his strategy for dealing with them encouraging.

"When he would see himself getting aggressive, he would go into his room, as opposed to hurting somebody," Nancy said. "That's where he was at."

Something happened Dec. 31 that caused him to swing at a co-worker at Metro Resources Technology Park. He was held down for an unknown period, then rushed to Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina. According to the medical report, he had no pulse for 30 minutes.

His mother signed papers Tuesday to allow his organs to be donated should the time come. She hopes criminal charges will be filed or, at least, somebody will get fired.

"My question is: Why four people?" she said. "Being the victim of Tim's assaults, I certainly understand the need for restraining him, but that never resulted in him losing consciousness and going into cardiac arrest.

"Tim," she said, "would want me to fight for him."

Finger-pointing is human, but more helpful is a transparent investigation, which the police and state Department of Human Services have promised.

Disabled man dies of injuries after being restrained at work
Star Tribune

Tim Aleshire, a 27-year-old developmentally disabled man injured while being restrained last week by a handful of people at his state-operated workplace in Eden Prairie, has died, his mother said.

Nancy Aleshire said that her son died Friday. She has yet to hear what the Hennepin County medical examiner's office has determined about the cause of Tim's death.

He was injured Dec. 31 when four people at Metro Resources Technology Park restrained him as he tried to assault a co-worker, Nancy Aleshire said. He remained unconscious until his death, she said.

Police in Eden Prairie are investigating the death. The state Department of Human Services, which runs Metro Resources, is conducting an internal inquiry. Neither is saying more about the case.

Aleshire said Monday that she has hired an attorney to pursue a civil wrongful-death claim against Metro Resources and possibly others.