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Hot Van Death of Intellectually Disabled Man with Autism: Caregiver Sentenced to Prison

Posted Mar 09 2011 3:32am

Composite photo from the Philadelphia Inquirer, philly.com

The composite photo above is from the Philadephia Inquirer online article  Caregiver in death sent to prison which reports that caregiver Stacey Strauss was sentenced to two to five years in state prison, six months short of the maximum, after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Bryan Nevins who she left in a hot van unattended where he literally baked to death.  Strauss is pictured in the bottom left hand corner and Bryan Nevins is in the top right. 
The sentencing judge was not impressed with the lack of remorse shown by Strauss.  The details of the death as reported straight up by the Philadelphia Inquirer are horrifying to this father of a severely autistic 15 year old boy:
On July 24, one of the hottest days of the summer, Strauss had left 20-year-old Bryan Nevins in a closed van at Woods Services in Middletown, where Nevins lived and Strauss worked as a residential counselor. He was found more than five hours later, dead of hyperthermia.
The tragedy happened after Strauss and a coworker had returned from a trip to nearby Sesame Place. Nevins, who functioned at the level of a 2-year-old, was unable to get out of the van on his own.
Competing for Strauss' attention was the apparent allure of her cell phone.
Records showed that she talked on the phone for more than three hours of her eight-hour shift, and made or received 71 text messages, all in violation of Woods Services regulations. Among the calls was a 44-minute chat with her boyfriend during the time Nevins is believed to have died inside the van.
"During that phone call, if the defendant had gone to Bryan, his life would have been saved," Deputy District Attorney Robert James told Cepparulo.
Instead, James said, "Bryan literally baked in that vehicle while she was on the cell phone with her boyfriend."
My 15 year old son has autistic disorder with profound developmental delays, he is severely autistic.  This story makes my stomach turn.  It scares the hell out of me to think that someone like Stacey Strauss could be left with the life and death responsibility of caring for someone like my son.  I am happy that she is going to a state prison.  But institutions and facilities everywhere in the US, Canada and elsewhere must be subjected to greater surveillance and review to ensure that what happened to Bryan Nevins does not happen to anyone else.
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