I’m Not Going Away,
Zehnder © 2006
October 9, 2006
not going away, would you? Cynthia Allen asked that question the
Though I would
like to write about the boy Joey was, about how everyone loved him,
and about how much he wanted to get better and lead a normal life, I
feel compelled to write about what really happened to Joey Aletriz
and how his mom feels about it.
I stopped to
think about her question, and these thoughts came to mind:
Joey's Mom, Cynthia Allen
Imagine how it
would feel if you had a teenaged boy who needed help to cope with
issues in his life. You and he together sought help and you thought
you’d found it. You enrolled him into a residential treatment
program for kids with the promise that within six months they could
help him overcome his issues. Two months after you put him in the
program you receive a phone call, “I’m sorry, Mrs. Allen, but we
don’t think Joey is going to make it.”
Imagine your pain
and the feeling of disbelief, the thoughts rushing through your head
as you remember your son’s words about a boy who had died there just
weeks earlier. Imagine rushing to the hospital to find your child
lifeless, laying on a bed, his face bruised nearly beyond
recognition. Being a nurse, you understood all that was being said
and all that was going on around your son. You watched as they
continued to try to revive him, only to give up when they knew there
was no way he was going to come back to life. Imagine holding your
child in your arms when there was no life left – this is the tragic
scenario Cynthia was forced to endure.
Cynthia was told
her son was restrained because he did not want to give staff back
the hooded sweatshirt he was wearing. But Cynthia recalls the
sweatshirt met their dress code and that her son should have been
allowed to wear it. She also recalls it was cold that February day.
She remembers the barrack-style rooms the boys slept in and how cold
it was there. Why was there an issue about his hoodie, his mom
Being a nurse
Cynthia knew what happened to her son was more than simply a
restraint. She has been trained in restraints and has had to perform
restraints. If restraints are done according to policy and procedure
they do not cause the types of injuries her son sustained. She
understood when she read the preliminary autopsy report. She was
dismayed to learn the stomach contents of her son were in his nasal
cavity. One side of his face was black and blue and the other side
had a hemotoma from his temple to his jaw. His organs were damaged
and he had bruising consistent with that of a slug or kick on
different areas of his body. The list went on as her anguish grew.
Joey’s mom lives
with the memory of that day every day. She cannot shake what has
happened to her son. She cannot allow his death to be in vain. She
cried last week when she said, “They never even said they were
sorry. No one has ever told me they were sorry for killing my son.”
I feel Cynthia
has good cause to be concerned and to want to seek justice for her
son, Joey. She is not only concerned about what happened to her son,
but what has happened to the countless others. Her goal is to see to
it other parents do not have to endure the agonizing pain she has
had to endure, and continues to endure. She said, “I don’t know what
I’m going to do, it’s almost the holidays. I don’t know how I will
survive them without Joey this year. I will have to hold it together
for Alex”. Alex is her older son who, too, is grieving for the loss
of his little brother.
justice system did not protect Joey when they suggested his mother
place him in a facility operated by a company with a history of
abusive practices, some leading to death.
Below is a list
of seventeen children who have died just over the past year while they
were in youth programs (that we know of, there are undoubtedly
September 11, 2005, 12-year old Shirley Arciszewski was
restrained and died of asphyxia at the Charlotte Group Home in
September 13, 2005, 12-year old Alex Harris died of
dehydration and blow to the head, allegedly when he was dropped
on his head at Hope Youth Ranch in Minden.
September 18, 2005, 14-year old Linda Harris was physically
restrained by a male worker at the Chad Youth Enhancement
Center. She stopped breathing and later died.
October 8, 2005, 13-year old Kasey Warner was found dead in
12” of water at the ViaQuest Warren Avenue group home. Kasey was
an autistic boy who had never spoken a word. Though is mother
was promised he would have round-the-clock care and supervision
and that he would never be left alone, he was left alone and
drowned in a bathtub with 12" of water.
October 13, 2005, 17-year old Willie Durden, died at the
privately managed Cypress Creek Juvenile Offender Correctional
Center in Lecanto, in Citrus County. An autopsy concluded Willie
died of ventricular arrhythmia, due to an enlarged and diseased
heart. A recent report says guards waited about 20 minutes after
discovering the limp teen before calling 911 and beginning CPR.
A guard told investigators he waited to begin CPR because teens
sometimes ``play pranks.''
December 5, 2005, 12-year old Michael “Mickey” Garcia was
placed in a basket hold restraint by a staff member at Star
Ranch facility in Texas. Mickey stopped breathing, could not be
revived, and later died.
December 12, 2005, 16-year old James White lost his life at
SummitQuest Academy, in Ephrata, PA. According to newspaper
articles his death is being investigated. Allegedly he fell
during exercise and died.
December 26, 2005, 14-year old Johnny Lim complained of an
excruciating headache, vomited, and fell to the floor in his
cell at the King County Juvenile Detention Center in Washington.
The county's medical examiner ruled the death a "spontaneous
brain-stem hemorrhage" attributable to natural causes. There are
many unanswered questions by Lim's family and attorney
representing staff and the center.
January 6, 2006, 14-year old Martin Lee Anderson died at a
Pensacola hospital one day after guards at the Bay County
Sheriff's Office Boot Camp punched, kneed, and applied pressure
to his head in an attempt to force him to continue running laps.
An autopsy ordered by a special prosecutor concluded Martin died
of asphyxia after guards covered his mouth and shoved ammonia
capsules up his nose. A use-of-force report said the guards had
thought Martin was malingering.
February 4, 2006, 16-year old Giovanni “Joey” Aletriz died
after being beaten and restrained at SummitQuest in Ephrata, PA
- On May
26, 2006, 7-year old Angellika Arndt lost her life at the
Northwest Guidance and Counseling Center in Rice Lake, WI. Angie
had been restrained nine times in the month she was there, each
restraint lasting one to two hours, one time she was restrained
for “gargling milk”. She was restrained again the next day, and
the following she died as a result of the restraint.
- On May
31, 2006, 12-year old Lenny Ortega drowned during an outing
at Star Ranch in Texas. The facility was under investigation for
the death and alleged abuse of other children there; the
facility has been shut down pending an investigation.
- On June
17, 2006, 13-year old Dillon Tyler Peak died after becoming
ill at the Peace River Outward Bound wilderness camp in DeSoto
County, Florida. Officials say Dillon apparently died of a
severe case of encephalitis. The death remains under
- On July
16, 2006, 16-year old Elisa Santry died after hiking in the
wilderness in 110° weather while attending an Outward Bound
wilderness expedition. She was separated from her group for 10
hours before being found, dead, alone on the side of a canyon.
She had complained she did not feel well early that morning, yet
she was allowed to hike alone.
- On July
31, 2006, 16-year old Natalynndria Lucy Slim was found by a
friend hanging from a computer cord. Her death is being
investigated and is considered a suicide at the Adolescent
Residential Treatment Center operated by the Presbyterian
- On August
4, 2006, 14-year old
Danieal Kelly died during a heat wave. She
was bedridden, infested with
maggots, and nearly paralyzed with cerebral palsy. She died in
extreme heat, dehydrated, weighing just 46 pounds when she died.
She wasted away in bed with bedsores, under the nose of the
city's social service agency, according to an October 25, 2006,
MSNBC article, 14-year-old Pa. girl died of dehydration; workers
failed to notice neglect.
- On August
12, 2006, 16-year old Alex Cullinane died of dehydration at
Back to Basics Christian Military Academy. His death is under
investigation. He did not eat for days, according to other
children, and complained of stomach pain. He died in the middle
of the night after getting up to use the bathroom.
Below are two children who died
this past year who were allegedly abused during their stay at
Tranquility Bay in Jamaica. Both boys were featured in the June 22,
2006, "Rough Love" article:
- On June
6, 2006, Kerry Layne Brown was found dead in his bed. Layne
spent nine months at the World Wide Association of Specialty
Programs (WWASPS) program, Tranquility Bay, where he was
tortured – he was pepper-sprayed multiple times a day for months
(a staff member admitted to it on videotape), his genitals were
scrubbed with toilet brushes. His life was never the same and he
died at the young age of 24. His death is under investigation.
- On June
7, 2006, Carter Lynn was found dead hanging from the rafter
in his home. Carter had been interviewed about his experiences,
also at WWASPS’ Tranquility Bay program in Jamaica. His death is
also under investigation.