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Grieving Parents Hope Lawmakers Will Change Rules On Treatment Disclosure;
Police Say Staffers Suffocated Teen, Then Ran Errands With Body In Van

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 26, 2007

COLONIE, NEW YORK--The parents of a 13-year-old institution resident are directing their grief over his death into efforts to make sure other children with disabilities do not suffer the same fate.

Michael and Lisa Carey are calling for New York lawmakers to pass "Jonathan's Law", which is named for their son, who died on February 15 after being physically restrained in the back of a van.

Jonathan Carey, who had autism and could not talk, had been a resident of the state-run Oswald D. Heck Development Center.

Colonie Police Chief Stephen Heider told reporters the next day that O.D. Heck employees Edwin Tirado Jr., 35, and Nadeem Mall, 32, took Carey and a 14-year-old fellow resident on what was supposed to be an outing to a shopping center. While Mall, the driver, was out of the vehicle using a bank ATM, Tirado apparently restrained Carey in the back of the van, using "improper and wrongful holds", Heider said.

At some point, Carey stopped breathing.

But instead of administering CPR, calling for help, or taking the teen to an emergency room, the two staffers went shopping.

Heider alleges that the pair drove around for the next 90 minutes, picking up drinks at a convenience store, purchasing a video game at a toy store, and dropping it off at Tirado's home, before heading back to the facility -- all the time knowing Carey's dead body was in the back of the van with the 14-year-old resident.

"There is a potential that this person could have been saved. The two could have sought some help or provided some assistance," said Heider.

Tirado and Mall were arrested last week and charged with second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. Both have pleaded not guilty and have posted bail.

The institution has placed Tirado, a six-year employee, on unpaid leave. Last Friday, it fired Mall, who was described as a trainee.

In 2004, Carey's parents pulled their son out of a Dutchess County facility, claiming he was abused and neglected by staff there. They have since sued the facility and have called on lawmakers to pass the measure that would give parents greater access to information about their children's treatment at such facilities.

"Once things are disclosed, it will eliminate abuse before it happens," Michael Carey told reporters last Thursday. "And when it happens, individuals who are involved will be either immediately removed or put in jail."

Lisa Carey said: "When Jonathan's Law is passed and these agencies know parents have access to records, it will force them to train their staff appropriately so this will not keep happening to children."

After the couple's news conference, Governor Eliot Spitzer directed the new commissioner of the state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, Diana Ritter, to start a full-scale investigation into Carey's death.

"Men charged after autistic boy dies in van" (Times Union)
"Quest to Save Other Lives: Autistic Boy's Parents Speak Out" (WTEN-TV)
"Tape of re-enactment boy's death called key" (Times Union)
"Editorial: Disordered care -- State should focus agency on growing autism needs" (Press & Sun-Bulletin)
"Jump on bandwagon for Jonathan's Law" (Troy Record)

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