Posted March 28, 2016
Two employees charged with misdemeanors, spared from criminal prosecution
Story and photos by Patrice K. Muhammad
FRANFORT – More than two months after the death of Gynnya McMillen it was announced that a series of investigations by state workers and the Mayo medical laboratory determined that the 16-year-old died in her sleep of a heart arrhythmia, specifically, inherited long QT syndrome while in the care of Lincoln Village Juvenile Detention Center.
McMillen was found unresponsive on January 11 at a juvenile detention center, where she was placed in isolation after being taken to the floor by 4 staff members using an Aikido hold for her alleged unwillingness to submit to a pat down search upon entering the facility.
Barney Kinman, head of internal investigations for the Justice Cabinet, refuted claims that the teen was restrained for failing to remove a sweatshirt. Kinman retired from the Lexington Police Department before assuming this post. The take down of Gynnya by staff members is not part of the 60 hours of unedited video that will be released to family members at the conclusion of the police investigation.
Kinman said that the four minute take down could have been viewed if one of the two cameras pointed at the area was not broken. According to Kinman, one camera shows the initial contact with Gynnya but she is taken to the floor and the view of the search is obstructed by a desk or counter. The second camera that could have taped it was broken for several days before the incident. All accounts of the take down were recollections of staff members involved, plus one staff bystander and the Shelbyville police officer that transported Gynnya to the Elizabethtown facility.
According to the released statement, investigators do not believe that the restraint played a role in Gynnya’s sudden death.
However, during the press conference State Pathologist Dr. Donna Stewart did say that stress could have been one of any number of contributors to an irregular heartbeat. “Emotional stress, physical stress, just any kind of alteration in the physiology where the ability of our body to function as it does can certainly increase the risk of sudden death in any of us,” she said.
Dr. Stewart said that based on the information of family members there were no known relatives who have died of this inherited condition.
Gynnya’s sister LaChe Inez Simms posted on Facebook, ‘’Who did she inherit the heart condition from??? Lincoln Village??? It had to be because NO ONE on either sides of her family has a heart condition.’’
Stewart said that Gynnya showed no sign of lethal injuries only scrapes and bruises to her torso and extremities. Human bite marks were also observed on the teens right leg which Stewart says, in her opinion, happened prior to intake at the facility.
Commissioner Tilley said that he was “deeply troubled’’ by the rampant violation of policy by employees at Lincoln Village and discrepancies between paperwork and what was seen on video.
There were 117 bed checks documented on the work log, however only 75 checks were confirmed by the video surveillance.
The first fired was Bob Hayter who, in 2014, was appointed to serve as Commissioner, overseeing 28 youth facilities and 1300 employees. In a WDRB – Bowling Green interview Hayter made a public plea for his job back.
“I can’t believe they let me go. We looked at all the film and I think as an agency we did all we could do or should have done with the exception of a few checks,” said Hayter. “I feel sorry for her and her family, I really do. But unfortunately, my name is connected to her forever. I’ll never get over this. It made me look bad, like I did something wrong,” he explained. “They were looking for a way to get the media off their backs.”
Tilley said that one worker who failed to make the required visual checks on Gynnaya was terminated. He had a history of falsifying work records. Two more workers were placed on leave, three face suspension and one resigned during the investigation.
It is not clear if more charges will be filed against others. Sgt. Michael Webb of Kentucky State Police said that his investigation was far reaching beyond Lincoln Village and included the Shelbyville police and transport and the family incident which lead to Gynnya’s mother calling 911.