I’m Not Going Away, Would You?
By Isabelle Zehnder © 2006
October 9, 2006
For more information and news about Joey, click here.
Though I would like to write about the boy Joey was, about how everyone loved him, and about how much he wanted to get better and lead a normal life, I feel compelled to write about what really happened to Joey Aletriz and how his mom feels about it.
I stopped to think about her question – I’m not going away, would you? - and these thoughts came to mind:
Imagine how it would feel if you had a teenaged boy who needed help to cope with issues in his life. You and he together sought help and you thought you’d found it. You enrolled him into a residential treatment program for kids with the promise that within six months they could help him overcome his issues. Two months after you put him in the program you receive a phone call, “I’m sorry, Mrs. Allen, but we don’t think Joey is going to make it.”
Imagine your pain and the feeling of disbelief, the thoughts rushing through your head as you remember your son’s words about a boy who had died there just weeks earlier. Imagine rushing to the hospital to find your child lifeless, laying on a bed, his face bruised nearly beyond recognition. Being a nurse, you understood all that was being said and all that was going on around your son. You watched as they continued to try to revive him, only to give up when they knew there was no way he was going to come back to life. Imagine holding your child in your arms when there was no life left – this is the tragic scenario Cynthia was forced to endure.
Cynthia was told her son was restrained because he did not want to give staff back the hooded sweatshirt he was wearing. But Cynthia recalls the sweatshirt met their dress code and that her son should have been allowed to wear it. She also recalls it was cold that February day. She remembers the barrack-style rooms the boys slept in and how cold it was there. Why was there an issue about his hoodie, his mom wondered?
Being a nurse Cynthia knew what happened to her son was more than simply a restraint. She has been trained in restraints and has had to perform restraints. If restraints are done according to policy and procedure they do not cause the types of injuries her son sustained. She understood when she read the preliminary autopsy report. She was dismayed to learn the stomach contents of her son were in his nasal cavity. One side of his face was black and blue and the other side had a hemotoma from his temple to his jaw. His organs were damaged and he had bruising consistent with that of a slug or kick on different areas of his body. The list went on as her anguish grew.
Joey’s mom lives with the memory of that day every day. She cannot shake what has happened to her son. She cannot allow his death to be in vain. She cried last week when she said, “They never even said they were sorry. No one has ever told me they were sorry for killing my son.”
I feel Cynthia has good cause to be concerned and to want to seek justice for her son, Joey. She is not only concerned about what happened to her son, but what has happened to the countless others. Her goal is to see to it other parents do not have to endure the agonizing pain she has had to endure, and continues to endure. She said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do, it’s almost the holidays. I don’t know how I will survive them without Joey this year. I will have to hold it together for Alex”. Alex is her older son who, too, is grieving for the loss of his little brother.
The juvenile justice system did not protect Joey when they suggested his mother place him in a facility operated by a company with a history of abusive practices, some leading to death.
And then there’s little 7-year old Angellika “Angie” Arndt.
The State of Wisconsin has been hit with a tragedy that, in my opinion, needs to be reviewed and discussed. Changes need to be made. New laws need to be enacted. Why? Because a little girl lost her life at the age of 7 and if things don’t change, others will follow. This was a senseless and needless death that occurred at the hands of those who were supposed to be trained to help her. Not end her life.
Her name was Angellika “Angie” Arndt and she was a beautiful little girl. Her life was cut short because of inadequate staff training and the use of good old common sense. Angie was placed into a dangerous face-down prone restraint position and held down by a man nearly 5 times her body weight for nearly 50 minutes. The weight of his body on her upper torso caused her death. The day before she died she was reprimanded for blowing bubbles in her milk and laughing during lunchtime. Her punishment was being held down in the same face-down prone restraint position for 98 minutes.
After reviewing all of the facts in Angie’s case, Randall Cullen, M.D., concluded Angie posed no real threat to herself or staff, the guidelines for restraining a child. In fact, he stated the staff’s actions escalated the situation and that, given the chance, Angie would have likely calmed down on her own.
It is my hope that you will read "Bubble in My Milk", a resource and information packet, in full to understand the impact of what can happen, and does happen, to children who are placed in dangerous face-down prone restraints in treatment facilities. This is by far not an isolated incident
Restraint deaths of innocent children appear to be on the rise. An increase of children needing services, coupled with untrained staff and lax restraint policies, have played a role in many of these deaths. It is not always easy to find qualified, caring, and compassionate people who are willing to work with children with special needs. Placing children in the hands of unqualified, untrained staff is a recipe for disaster, as we have all too often seen.
I believe it is time for change. We, as a society, need to get involved, we need to act, and we need to see to it that changes are made. Not just in the state of Wisconsin, but in all states. Why wait until it is one of our children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews?
In the state of Wisconsin, it is our hope that “Angie’s Law” will be enacted, banning the use of deadly prone restraints on children. In the state of Pennsylvania, it is our hope that “Joey’s Law” will be enacted, again banning the use of deadly prone restraints on children. States, like Texas, have paved the path. It’s time, in my opinion, for other states follow their lead. (Click here to read “Bubbles in My Milk”.)
CHILDREN WHO HAVE DIED IN RESTRAINT:
CAICA has tracked deaths of children in residential facilities, including restraint deaths. Below is a list of 54 children who have died in restraints over the past ten years, undoubtedly there are more. (Click here for children who died in restraint deaths, click here for others who died in treatment.)
On February 22, 1996, 16-year old Eric Roberts was wrapped in a plastic foam blanket with Velcro for one hour at Odyssey Harbor. According to the autopsy he stopped breathing due to pressure on his chest and died.
On August 16, 1996, 17-year old Bobby Sue Thomas was restrained, face-down at the Northwood Childrens’ Home. She died of acute cardiac arrhythmia.
On September 26, 1996, 17-year old Bobby Joe Randolph was taken to the floor and restrained by two aides at the Progressive Youth Center in Houston, Texas. She died of asphyxia due to pressure that was placed on her neck. Her death was ruled a homicide.
On April 21, 1997, 12-year old Robert Rollins was restrained for 10 minutes, face down on the floor, after a dispute over his teddy bear at the Devereaux School in Rutland, Massachusetts. Investigators found a significant delay in emergency response. The staffer who restrained the boy left him lying, unresponsive, on the floor. He later died, cause of death was asphyxiation. No criminal charges were filed.
On June 5, 1997, 12-year old Shinaul McGraw died of hyperthermia and extremely high body temperature after he was wrapped in a bed sheet with gauze over his mouth, restrained to a bed at New Directions 2nd Chance.
On June 10, 1997, 18-year old Sakena Dorsey was placed in a face-down prone restraint with a staff member lying across her back at the Foundation Behavior Health Center in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Sakena stopped breathing while she was being physically restrained and later died. No criminal charges were filed. She had a history of asthma and problems with swollen tonsils that hindered her breathing.
On July 15, 1997, 19-year old Michael Arnold tried to leave the Keystone City Residence day camp. He was held down in a restraint, pressure placed on torso. He died of asphyxiation due to chest compression.
On July 24, 1997, 19-year old Judith Young climbed out of a window at the Adult Family Home (a private group home in Washington). She became entangled in the straps that were used to restrain her. She had been dead six hours before workers noticed she was hanging from the window.
On August 18, 1997, 16-year old Rochelle Clayborne was pinned, face-down by aids at Laurel Ridge, and was given tranquilizers. She died from cardiac arrhythmia.
On September 20, 1997, 6-year old Jimmy Kanda was strapped to his wheelchair and left unattended at Crow’s Nest Family Care in San Martin, California. He became strangled and 911 talked staff through CPR, but Jimmy died of asphyxiation. The home was shut down as a result of his death.
On September 26, 1997, 17-year old Jeffery Demetrius died from strangulation while he was restrained at the Crockett (Texas) State School. Jeffery lost consciousness while being physically restrained by two staff members after assaulting staffers. It was the second time he was restrained that day. A grand jury did not issue any indictments.
On November 2, 1997, 13-year old Chris Campbell was restrained four times at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toleda, Iowa during the last 24-hours of his life. Cause of death undetermined. Chris, who had a pacemaker, had been transferred to four different facilities in the last five months of his life.
On February 2, 1998, 15-year old Edith Campos was looking at a family photograph when a male aide instructed her to hand over the “unauthorized” personal item. The dispute escalated into a face-down restraint at the Desert Hills Center for Youth and Families in Tuscon, Arizona. Edith died of asphyxia from the restraint. Charges against the aide were dismissed.
On March 1, 1998, 14-year old Dustin E. Phelps died when the owner of the Lancaster Foster Home in Ohio wrapped him in a blanket and a mattress, wrapping them together with straps. He was left on the mattress for four hours and later died as a result.
On March 4, 1998, 17-year old Kelly Young was restrained in a basket-hold restraint and taken to the ground by staff at the Arthur Brisbane Child Treatment Center in Wall Township, New Jersey. She died as a result and the cause of death was positional asphyxiation. A grand jury convened but no indictments were issued.
On March 4, 1998, 16-year old Tristan Sovern died after he was restrained by workers face-down on the ground at the Charter Behavioral Health, Greensboro, Psychiatric Hospital in North Carolina. During the struggled staffers placed a towel over Tristan’s mouth and held a bed sheet around his head. No one checked his breathing or pulse during the restraint. One criminal indictment was issued against a staffer.
On March 22, 1998, 11-year old Andrew McClain was restrained face-down with his arms crossed over his chest during his stay at the Elmcrest Psychiatric Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut. He died as a result, the cause of death was asphyxia and chest compression.
On April 29, 1998, 16-year old Mark Soares died from cardiac arrest after he was physically restrained by staff at Wayside Union Academy. Aides thought he was faking unconsciousness.
On October 15, 1998, 18-year old Brandon Hadden was restrained in a straitjacket and held facedown on a bed. He vomited and choked to death while two staff continued to hold him down at the Healthcare Rehabilitation Center in Austin, Texas.
In December 1998, 14-year old Mark Draheim was forcibly restrained by three staff members at KidsPeace. He died as a result of the restraint, cause of death was asphyxiation. In 2006 the case was settled. His family won $30K per year for 30 years.
On February 5, 1999, 16-year old Kristal Mayon-Ceniceros suffered respiratory arrest and died after being restrained face-down by four staff members at the New Alternatives Facility in Chula Vista, California.
On March 11, 1999, 9-year old Timothy Thomas died when he suffocated after being restrained by his teacher at the Grandfather Academy for Children, a home for abused children that had been the target of a number of complaints. He only weighed 53 pounds and was put into a basket hold by his teacher.
On November 2, 1999, 14-year old Jerry McLaurin died after he was restrained at the New Horizons Ranch.
On December 28, 1999, 17-year old Joshua Sharpe died after he was restrained at the Wisconsin Treatment Center.
On February 4, 2000, 9-year old Willie Wright, an autistic boy, died at Southwest Mental Health Center, a mental hospital in San Antonio, Texas, after he was restrained by hospital workers. After he was restrained on his side for fifteen minutes hospital workers noticed he was no longer breathing. They administered CPR, but neither the workers nor an emergency crew could revive him.
On February 5, 2000, 12-year old Michael Ibarra-Wiltsie was restrained, sat on by a 320-pound counselor at the Eckert Youth Alternatives program and died. Some time later his mom was found dead in her garage with her 7-year old son in an apparent murder-suicide. It is believed she took her life because she was distraught over the death of her son.
On February 6, 2000, 9-year old Randy Steele was restrained during a scuffle at Laurel Ridge facility. He vomited and stopped breathing. After reviving him he was transferred to a hospital where he died the next day. He had been restrained 25 times during the 28 days prior to his death.
On February 10, 2000, 15-year old Sabrina E. Day died after she was restrained at the North Carolina Group Home.
On April 18, 2000, 10-year old Candace Newmaker was held under a stack of pillows, wrapped in a blanket, during a “rebirthing” session at the Evergreen Attachment Center. She cried, screamed, and pleaded for help. She vomited and defecated on herself, yet they continued to restrain her. Finally, after she was quiet for some time they released her and saw she was no longer breathing. She died the next day of asphyxiation.
On September 18, 2000, 15-year old William “Eddie” Lee suffered an injury to his vertebral artery at the base of his skull after being restrained by counselors at the Obsidian Trails Wilderness Camp.
On February 9, 2001, 11-year old Tanner Wilson suffered from a heart attack and died while he was being physically restrained at the Gerard, Iowa facility.
On February 11, 2001, 16-year old Stephanie Duffield died after she was restrained at the Shiloh Residential Treatment Center.
On May 14, 2001, 17-year old Carlton Eugene Thomas suffered cardiac arrest and died when a staff member at the Edgemeade-Raymond A. Rogers Jr. School cut off his oxygen during a restraining hold.
On February 6, 2002, 14-year old Matthew Goodman, died after he was kept in mechanical restraints for 16 months at the Bancroft Institution in Haddenfield, New Jersey. He died from pneumonia, respiratory distress, and blood poisoning.
Latasha Bush 15 years old
On February 14, 2002, 15-year old Latasha Bush died from complications of mechanical restraint and asphyxia after being restrained at the Daystar Residential Treatment Center in Southeast Texas. A DPRS investigation concluded she died after being restrained. The medical examiner listed mechanical asphyxiation as the cause of death.
On March 7, 2002, 14-year old Cedric Napoleon died as a result of being restrained at the Manor Middle School in Killeen, Texas.
On October 14, 2002, Chase Moody, Jr., was laughing in his tent at the On Track Wilderness Therapy program operated by the Brown School (CEDU affiliated). Staff ordered him to get out of the tent when he continued laughing, threw him to the ground, and restrained him. Within ten minutes he stopped breathing and died as a result of the restraint.
On March 10, 2003, 15-year old Orlena Parker was pinned, face-down, by at least six, possibly seven, adult staff members at the Devereux Cleo Wallace facility in Colorado Springs. She died within 15 minutes.
On August 25, 2003, 15-year old Michael R. Lewis, III, an autistic child, was restrained on his stomach by six employees on his first day of school at Parchment High. He was dead within two hours.
On October 12, 2003, 14-year old Maria Mendoza was restrained at the Krause Children's Center, in Katy, Texas. The Department of Protective & Regulatory Services did an investigation and reported Maria died of "mechanical" or traumatic asphyxiation, meaning external pressure or the position of her body prevented her from breathing.
On December 23, 2004, 16-year old Garrett Halsey, an autistic and mentally retarded boy, was restrained by six people who sat on his back at the Grafton School, Inc., Grafton Group Home, causing his death. This occurred on his second day at the group home.
On April 21, 2005, 13-year old Travis Parker was restrained for an hour and a half and was denied his asthma medication when he attended the Appalachian Wilderness Camp in Georgia.
On September 11, 2005, 12-year old Shirley Arciszewski was restrained and died of asphyxia at the Charlotte Group Home in South Carolina.
On September 18, 2005, 14-year old Linda Harris was physically restrained by a male worker at the Chad Youth Enhancement Center. She stopped breathing and later died.
On December 5, 2005, 12-year old Michael “Mickey” Garcia was placed in a basket hold restraint by a staff member at Star Ranch facility in Texas. Mickey stopped breathing, could not be revived, and later died.
On January 6, 2006, 14-year old Martin Lee Anderson died at a Pensacola hospital one day after guards at the Bay County Sheriff's Office Boot Camp punched, kneed, and applied pressure to his head in an attempt to force him to continue running laps. An autopsy ordered by a special prosecutor concluded Martin died of asphyxia after guards covered his mouth and shoved ammonia capsules up his nose. A use-of-force report said the guards had thought Martin was malingering.
On February 4, 2006, 16-year old Giovanni “Joey” Aletriz died after being beaten and restrained at SummitQuest in Ephrata, PA. The contents of his stomach were in his nasal cavity. One side of his face was black and blue and the other side had a hemotoma from his temple to his jaw. His organs were damaged and he had bruising consistent with that of a slug or kick on different areas of his body.
On May 26, 2006, 7-year old Angellika Arndt lost her life at the Northwest Guidance and Counseling Center in Rice Lake, WI. Angie had been restrained nine times in the month she was there, each restraint lasting one to two hours, one time she was restrained for “gargling milk”. She was restrained again the next day, and the following she died as a result of the restraint.
On July 19, 2006, 21-year old Raymond Lee Mitchell, an autistic young man, threw a temper tantrum. His mother called the police who she believes escalated, rather than de-escalated the situation. Ultimately, she saw 6 grown men on top of her son as they restrained him. He died as a result of the restraint.
On August 4, 2006, 14-year old Danieal Kelly died during a heat wave. She was bedridden, infested with maggots, and nearly paralyzed with cerebral palsy. She died in extreme heat, dehydrated, weighing just 46 pounds when she died. She wasted away in bed with bedsores, under the nose of the city's social service agency. According to an October 25, 2006, MSNBC article, she died of dehydration and workers failed to notice neglect.
In August 2006 (exact date unknown), 3-year old Marcus Fiesel died after he was wrapped in a blanket then taped to a high chair and left alone for two days while his foster family went out of town. When they returned, he was dead. They burned his body.
On January 5, 2007, 18-year old Kevin Colindres, an autistic boy, died at home. Kevin was restrained by police after they were called to his home for a family disturbance. Kevin had been abusive to his mother so she called the police for help. Instead, they took Kevin to the ground, restrained him, and left him in a coma. He died several weeks later.
On January 23, 2007, 17-year old Isaiah Simmons, III, allegedly acted out in a dinner line and had to be restrained. The incident occurred during dinnertime around 5 p.m. and officials were not called until after 8 p.m., over three hours later. Officials have shown concern as to what happened during that window of time.
On February 15, 2007, 13-year old Jonathan Carey, died in restraints. Jonathan was a non-verbal autistic boy who was a resident at the O.D. Heck Developmental Center, was restrained in a van while staff were running errands. He could not be revived. Jonathan was also abused in another facility in 2004. His parents have been fighting to have his records unsealed so they can find out what happened to their son.