MOUNT DORA, Fla. — Four caregivers at a Florida group home are facing criminal charges after surveillance footage showed them beating, shoving and standing on the head of one of the home's disabled residents.
Breneisha Kantrel Blunt, 29, and Sheneka Adel Hester, 41, both of Eustis; Carolyn Emma Lee Joe, 25, of Tavares; and Jaleyah Nicole Wiggins, 24, of Eustis; are all charged with aggravated abuse of a disabled adult. Warrants were issued Aug. 19 for the women's arrests.
Mount Dora police officials said last week that officers were called the afternoon of Aug. 13 to a group home run by Attain Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to the support of people with developmental disabilities. When they arrived, they were told that the unidentified victim had gotten hurt while acting out.
The woman had bruising on her face, a cut to her lip and a skinned knee, authorities said in a news release.
"The employees stated that the female caused the injuries to herself, and her behavior while the officers were on scene was extremely erratic and consistent with the employees' statements at the time," the news release stated.
The officers evaluated the woman to see if she qualified for involuntary commitment to a hospital via Florida's Mental Health Act, also known as the Baker Act, but she did not meet the criteria, police officials said. They documented her injuries and notified the state Department of Children and Families of the incident.
Two days later, officers and DCF workers went back to Attain, where they were provided with surveillance camera footage of the time frame in which the woman was injured.
What they saw was a shock.
The video begins with one of the accused women, identified in court documents as Hester, shoving the victim, causing her to skin her knee. Wiggins then pushes the woman to the floor.
The footage shows Joe shoving the woman to the tile floor and, when the resident approaches her again, she shoves her a second time, making her land on a couch in a sitting room. Other residents appear to be in the room as the assault begins.
"The video later shows Carolyn Joe placing her right foot on (the victim's) head, and in an attempt to reposition herself, (she) places all of her weight onto her right foot," an affidavit of probable cause in the case states. "You can clearly see that her left foot leaves the ground, exposing the light-colored wood flooring beneath her foot.
"Carolyn Joe is very heavyset and could have easily caused great bodily harm or even death to (the victim)."
Blunt can be seen striking the victim several times with a closed fist, the affidavit says. The nonprofit's regional director, Al-Deleon Carraway, told investigators her actions were not in line with the "Soft Control Technique" in which caretakers are trained to deescalate situations with the residents.
At another point in the video, Wiggins is seen throwing a shoe at the victim, the court document says.
The actions of the women were at odds with their statements to the initial responding officers that they applied the control techniques in which they were trained.
"The providers are trained in the deescalating techniques to keep the patient calm, as well as a way to control them without physically harming them," the affidavit states.
Read a probable cause affidavit in the case below.
Two other Attain workers, Michelle Charlene Vickers, 51, of Eustis, and Marquista Janey Stafford, 32, of Leesburg, witnessed the alleged beating but did nothing to stop it, according to the affidavit. Both Vickers and Stafford are charged with neglect of a disabled adult, court records show.
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