The district attorney’s office expects charges against at least one person after the state substantiated allegations of resident abuse last week.
An internal investigation at J. Iverson Riddle Developmental Center found that several staff members directed a resident to hit other residents and staff members by calling the resident’s name and pointing to a resident or staff member, according to a previous release from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Several staff members also were found to have slapped at residents, walls, floors and each other with towels and lanyards, according to the NCDHHS release.
While the state first said that the district attorney's had declined prosecution, District Attorney David Learner told The News Herald on Wednesday that he expects to see someone in court over the allegations that led to the firing of eight employees and the transfer of two others.
“The investigation into the matter is ongoing and I do expect one or more persons to be charged,” Learner told The News Herald.
He said he was not at liberty to comment further on the investigation.
According to a police report filed with Broughton Police, the abuse was first discovered in late August, but wasn’t reported to police until Sept. 6.
Carl Lanier, the Summit area director, told police that staff had used lanyards to snap or pop at and hit a resident in the back of the head, back and shoulders over three to four weeks, according to the police report. The resident also was directed by a staff member to go after other staff members and hit them, the report said.
Allegations of a fight club were first reported by The News Herald on Oct. 12 online, and allegations that a resident was used as a human weapon were published online on Oct. 17. On Oct. 18, NCDHHS confirmed to The News Herald that the allegations were true.
A copy of a final written notice of termination for one of the employees was obtained after The News Herald submitted Freedom of Information Act requests on Sept. 19 and Oct. 12.
In the termination notice, the employee that reported the abuse told two JIRDC advocates that staff members were using a lanyard to “whip” staff and residents in Elm Cottage.
The person also reported that a staff member had called a resident’s name, pointed at a staff member or resident and the resident would hit the staff or resident, according to the letter. The person alleged that they were told, “If I were to ever get frustrated and happened to harm a resident that I should keep it in the hairline so the mark would not be seen,” the letter said.
JIRDC advocates conducted multiple interviews after the abuse was reported. The person whose termination letter was obtained from the state admitted to the allegations, saying that they have redirected the resident’s hit to other people, and that they have observed other staff members tell a resident to hit other residents and staff, the letter said.
The terminated person also admitted to observing staff hit other residents with their lanyards on the chest and shoulder area, but did not report any of those incidents.
Advocates gave the terminated person an opportunity to write a final statement before disciplinary action was taken, and the person spoke to the atmosphere between employees at JIRDC, citing a previous experience with reporting employee conduct at JIRDC where, afterwards, staff members harassed, bullied and intimidated them.
“I was told by staff that if I made staff mad, they would turn on and get rid of me, that we didnt’ (sic) snitch,” they wrote.
The person recognized their mistakes, but insisted that they weren’t the only person to have made those mistakes.
“Again, I have made mistakes, but to say that I am the only one that may of (sic) saw things and didn’t report is not true,” the person wrote. “There is an unspoken rule so to say that many people will not come forward and say because it would put them in a bad light.”
Chrissy Murphy is a staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 828-432-8941.