Tuesday, May 20, 2008

When It Rains It Pours (Not a Weather Report)

This story was forwarded to me for my blog, which focuses on the challenges people with developmental disabilities face. The report is from the Galveston Daily News. It blows me away that an actual protective services case manager would behave in this way.

Examiner Argues Man Was Dead For Days

By Sara McDonald
The Daily News

TEXAS CITY — The state is reviewing claims from an adult protective services caseworker who reported seeing and talking to a 21-year-old cerebral palsy patient on a day medical reports say he was dead.

The caseworker, whose name hasn’t been released, told her supervisor that Alfredo Garcia Jr. was talking and “doing fine” Monday.

On Tuesday, she went to the Sundance Apartments, 3404 Ninth Ave. N., and found him dead.

The caseworker told supervisors she also visited Garcia on May 9 as part of regular visits to the apartment.

Galveston County Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Pustilnik told The Daily News on Friday that Garcia had been dead for at least three and a half days when found.

“It’s not possible (that it was less time,)” he said.

Initially, John Florence, the medical examiner’s office spokesman, said heat could have played a factor in the rate Garcia decomposed. Power to the apartment was shut off.

Pustilnik said even without air conditioning, Garcia would have had to be outside in 100-degree heat for that explanation to be possible.

Garcia wouldn’t have decomposed at four times the normal rate sitting inside on a living room chair where police found him, Pustilnik said.

Gwen Carter, the spokeswoman for the Region 6 division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said the caseworker had been taken off all her cases and given paperwork duties while the agency examines her claims.

The state is also reviewing the casework she provided about Garcia’s case.

The caseworker was tasked with monitoring 26 people, slightly more than average for the other adult protective services workers in Galveston County, Carter said.

Seven caseworkers are assigned to all of Galveston County and two ZIP codes in Harris County. They have from eight to 35 cases each, but average 21 cases, Carter said.

Adult protective services had monitored Garcia since November. The caseworker had recently suggested the state begin the process of taking custody of him.

He lived with his 46-year-old mother in a one-bedroom apartment, Texas City police Capt. Brian Goetschius said.

The mother, Thelma Garcia, stayed in the apartment with her dead son for days, police suspect. Neighbors said they saw her going in and out of the apartment in the days before her son’s body was found.

Preliminary autopsy reports ruled the death was natural, but results are pending toxicology results that can take up to three weeks, Pustilnik said.

Goetschius said police were still investigating the case. After police found the body, Thelma Garcia was admitted to the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston for a psychiatric evaluation, police said.

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