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Resistance is Futile

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During the deposition, Demski didn't try to mask his disdain for the various rules and regulations he had to comply with at Laurel Ridge. At one point, he was asked why the San Saba unit had nurses on it but the other units didn't.

"The patients themselves were not that different in many ways, but you have a morass of regulations put out by the federal government, by the state, by other agencies that you have to comply with. It's a very difficult thing," Demski said. "So in doing that we would cover all the bases, make sure that we had the proper people in place, and a lot was to satisfy the demands, be they reasonable or not, by various agencies which sent us these patients."

The rules and regulations didn't require Laurel Ridge to keep a medical doctor on site. Nor did they require nurses to be always present on the San Gabriel unit, where Randy was transferred. If they had been there, Randy might still be alive today: The nurses at San Saba restrained Randy some 25 times in 28 days, but he was never once injured. Once in the hands of San Gabriel's mental health workers, however, Randy survived just two days.

Sometime on the afternoon of February 6, Randy had to be physically restrained, during which he was given a shot of Thorazine. It was in the aftermath of that restraint that he suffered his final takedown. It happened around 3 p.m., just as the second-shift workers were clocking onto the job. One of the oncoming workers, Cathy Rodriguez, noticed that Randy had wet his pants again and told him to go change his clothes. Randy didn't because he had no clean clothes. Rodriguez ordered him to take a shower, telling him she'd bring him some clothes.

On his way back to his room, with Rodriguez on his tail, Randy went into the group room and began running around. Again Rodriguez ordered him to his room. He started throwing books and toys. When Rodriguez tried to "escort" Randy to his room, he lashed out.

Rodriguez put him in a basket hold, forcing him to sit on the ground. Later, her colleague David Spicer came in and held Randy's feet. Together, they flipped the wriggling boy onto his stomach and held him facedown on the floor. That's the prone position, the same one used on Clayborne and which became illegal under new laws just months later. Randy began to hyperventilate. At one point he screamed out, "I can't breathe."

"We sat him up, checked him," Spicer said in his deposition. "He was breathing, talking, yelling, cursing. OK, he's breathing, you know, back down he went."

They held him there for more than 20 minutes, at which point they heard him gasp. Rodriguez lifted Randy to his feet.

"I noticed some liquid coming out of the corner of his mouth," Spicer said. "Cathy then called out his name, 'Randy.' He was unresponsive. She laid him back down on his back, and she checked for a pulse, and we had a pulse, but we had no breathing."

Apparently, Randy had vomited. Rodriguez swept Randy's mouth with her fingers to check his air passage and began slapping his back. She then attempted CPR, blowing into his mouth and pushing on his chest. Spicer, meanwhile, had no idea if what Rodriguez was doing was correct. "I'd never seen anybody perform CPR before."

Worse, according to Maloney, Rodriguez had never performed CPR before. As a result, Maloney contends, Rodriguez and Spicer were totally unprepared to determine whether or not they were putting Randy's life in jeopardy.

"It is utterly and completely indefensible from a moral or legal standpoint not to provide nursing care for each unit around the clock," Maloney says. "To suggest that a mental health care worker is capable of assessing the physical health of a child is reprehensible."

Randy was taken by ambulance to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

When asked whether Laurel Ridge should employ a doctor to be on site 24 hours a day, The Brown Schools COO Thornton pointed out that rules governing staffing don't require it. Besides, she doesn't see the point.

"The patients are not there for medical problems. To have an internist or something there wouldn't be needed," Thornton says, adding, "We're not a medical hospital."

Like Roshelle Clayborne, Randy Steele's death was ruled to be the result of a heart attack brought on by natural causes. As far as Laurel Ridge is concerned, Randy's death was an "act of God," according to the answer the facility's lawyer filed to Maloney's lawsuit. Alternatively, the facility is arguing, Randy's death is his own fault. The injuries he sustained, they say, are the result of "pre-existing medical or psychological conditions or disabilities that are in no way the responsibility of" Laurel Ridge.

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Rose Farley
Contact: Rose Farley

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