Former Southbury Staff Plead Not Guilty In Resident's Choking
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 1, 2006
HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT--Three former Southbury Training School staff members have pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in connection with the death of a resident who died while choking on food when they allegedly left her alone in a car.
According to the Hartford Courant, Kimberly Rivnack, Barbara Williams, and Evelyn Mensah submitted pleas of not guilty on January 24 in Superior Court. Rivnack, 40, and Williams, 46, face second-degree manslaughter charges, but all three were charged with first-degree reckless endangerment related to the death of Rosemary Hicock.
Investigators allege that, instead of taking Hicock to a nearby Special Olympics event last June 11, Rivnack drove the car carrying Hicock to a shopping mall, while Williams and Mensah followed with a van carrying five other institution residents. Once there, Rivnack reportedly left Hicock alone and went into a T.J. Maxx store "for a long time". Hicock, who was not supposed to be left alone and was not supposed to eat without her food first being cut up, started eating a hamburger that Rivnack left in the car.
Sitting in the van, Williams and Mensah saw Hicock flailing about in the car, apparently trying to get their attention as she choked on her food. However, instead of trying to help Hicock or calling 9-1-1, the two went into the store to get Rivnack. By the time they returned, it was too late to rescue or revive Hicock.
Early in the investigation, the three told police that they were on their way to the Special Olympics event, and turned into the parking lot only when Hicock started choking. Later, Mensah, 35, told police that Rivnack stopped at the mall so she could go shopping.
All three cases were continued until February 16, the Courant noted.
The Department of Mental Retardation fired all three employees in September.
Last month, Hicock's family sued the department, accusing the agency of failing to properly train, evaluate and monitor the employees.
Southbury Training School, which houses 580 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is currently under a 10-year-old federal court order to improve conditions for its residents.