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MADISON Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced today, that a Milwaukee County man has been convicted of Neglect of a Resident. Bennie Morris, Jr., 28, Milwaukee, appeared before Judge Dennis Moroney on Monday and entered a plea of guilty to one count of Felony Neglect of a Resident Likely to Cause Great Bodily Harm. Sentencing has been scheduled for June 26, 2008, when Morris will face up to a $10,000 fine and three and a half years imprisonment.
According to the Department of Justices criminal complaint Morris worked as a caregiver at a group home located at 10927 W. Wildwood Lane, West Allis, Wisconsin. One of the facility residents suffers from autism, schizophrenia, and severe mental retardation. These various disabilities have resulted in the mans inability to talk, prepare his own food, bathe himself, or 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 told police, he was the one bathing the resident and it was his responsibility to check the temperature of the water before the resident entered the tub. Morris admitted the resident showed signs that the water was too hot by kicking at the water and splashing the floor and Morris. A witness in the house at the time reported seeing Morris push the resident into the bathroom and then heard banging crashing and sounds of a struggle as though the resident did not want to get into the tub. The witness said after five minutes Morris came out of the bathroom and his shirt and pants were wet. Shortly thereafter, the witness noticed redness on the victims buttocks.
I believe it is crucial to help protect those who can not protect themselves, said Van Hollen. The Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute cases involving abuse against societys most vulnerable.
In a related case, Toy Robbins, 34, of Milwaukee, appeared before Judge Robert Hawley and entered a plea of guilty to one misdemeanor count of Obstructing an Officer. The court withheld sentence and placed Robbins on nine months probation. In addition to the standard conditions of probation, Robbins must report the conviction to any employers.
According to the complaint, police questioned Toy Robbins at the scene and she stated that she had bathed the victim without incident and then left him in the care of another worker while she prepared the residents room for the night. Robbins stated when she returned to the bathroom she noticed the skin peeling off the victims legs and buttocks.
Robbins was questioned again a few hours later by another police officer and she stated at that time she was not involved in getting the resident into the bath tub. Robbins stated it was caregiver Bennie Morris who filled the tub and bathed the resident. When asked why this statement conflicted with her previous statement, Robbins told the Detective she had lied earlier to cover Bennie and to keep him clean of the situation.
Lying to police is obstruction, Van Hollen said. It places people at risk of further abuse and subjects you to criminal penalty.
I want to especially thank the West Allis Police Department for the work they did on this case, said Van Hollen.
An informational release from the Department of Health and Family Services directed to Adult Family Homes, indicates that second and third degree burns can occur in 6 seconds in water that is 140 degrees F. An officer at the scene tested the hot water tap in the bathtub where the victim was bathed and found the water reached 145 degrees F. in 30 seconds.
The case was investigated by the Wisconsin Department of Justices Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Eric Defort.