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MADISON - Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Moroney sentenced Bennie Morris, Jr., to the maximum of three and a half years imprisonment for his acts that led to severe burns on a resident in his care who suffered from autism, schizophrenia, and severe mental retardation. Morris, who pled guilty to one count of Felony Neglect of a Resident Likely to Cause Great Bodily Harm on May 5, 2008, will serve eighteen months initial confinement and two years extended supervision.
"The facts of this case are terrible and this sentence is entirely appropriate," said Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whose office investigated and prosecuted the case.
According to the Department of Justice's criminal complaint, Morris worked as a caregiver at a group home located at 10927 W. Wildwood Lane, West Allis, Wisconsin. The victim's various disabilities impaired his inability to talk, prepare food, and care for himself. On April 1, 2007, police and rescue personnel were called to the group home in response to a call about this resident having been injured while being bathed. They arrived to find the resident had suffered second degree burns over the lower 30% of his body, causing strips of skin to slough off his legs and feet.
According to the complaint, Morris admitted that he made the victim enter the tub and that the victim showed signs that the water was too hot by kicking at the water, which splashed onto the floor and onto Morris. A witness in the house reported seeing Morris push the resident into the bathroom and hearing "banging" and "crashing" sounds, as well as sounds of struggle. The witness said after five minutes Morris came out of the bathroom with a wet shirt and wet pants. Shortly thereafter, the witness noticed redness on the victim's buttocks.
An informational release from the Department of Health and Family Services indicates that second and third degree burns can occur in 6 seconds in water that is 140 degrees F., 30 seconds at 130 degrees F., 60 seconds at 127 degrees F., and 10 minutes at 120 degrees F. A City of West Allis Police officer at the scene tested the hot water tap in the bathtub where the victim was bathed and found that the water reached 145 degrees F. in 30 seconds.
The case was investigated by the City of West Allis Police Department and the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Eric Dfort.