Ky. Justice Secretary attributes teen's death at detention cente - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Ky. Justice Secretary attributes teen's death at detention center to heart condition

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Investigators say no trauma, internal injury or any type of asphyxiation contributed to the death of a teen at a detention center in Elizabethtown.

Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Secretary John Tilley held a news conference today in Frankfort to provide an update on investigations into the recent death of a juvenile inmate at the Lincoln Village Detention Center.

Gynnya McMillen, 16, was found dead in her cell around 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 10. She had been dead for three hours. 

Tilley said McMillen died from a rare heart condition called sudden cardiac arrhythmia and in effect died in her sleep.

So far, an internal review has found that an employee, failed to check in on Gynnya at required 15-minute intervals. Tilley says that employee has been fired, and two other employees are on leave with plans for termination. He says three others are facing suspension.

Tilley also says the former commissioner of juvenile justice was also let go.

Although McMillen was physically restrained for about four minutes the day before she died in her cell because she would not consent to a pat down search, Tilley says multiple investigations confirm that restraint was not a factor in her death and resulted in no apparent injuries.

Key results from Lincoln Village investigations:

  • Death resulted from natural causes: The Kentucky Medical examiners Office has determined that the youth passed away in her sleep from a sudden cardiac arrhythmia – a rhythm disturbance of the heart. While sleeping, she did not exhibit any apparent distress on surveillance video from inside the cell.
  • Genetic testing indicates heart syndrome: The Mayo Medical Laboratories performed an independent genetic test, identifying markers of Inherited Long QT Syndrome, which can cause irregular heart rhythms and sudden death even in otherwise healthy teenagers.
  • No lethal trauma: An autopsy ruled out all types of trauma, injury and asphyxiation as contributing factors. Nine other board-certified forensic pathologists, one pediatric pathologist, and one cardiac pathologist have all reviewed the autopsy and concurred with the findings.
  • No foul play: Investigators interviewed staff and conducted a full review of all physical evidence and approximately 60 hours of surveillance video. No evidence of foul play has been found in the death.
  • Restraint played no role: Investigators performed a careful review of the restraint that was used to help search the youth during intake and found that it played no role in the death. Staff resorted to the restraint only after the youth ignored verbal directions and refused to comply with a search. Afterward, she showed no signs on injury or distress as she walked through the facility and interacted with staff multiple times over the course of several hours. 
  • Swift response to misconduct: Investigators identified six employees who failed to complete regular bed checks and falsified information on the logs. One was terminated last month. Two more remain on special investigative leave. Three others are facing suspension though one has already resigned.
  • Release of surveillance video: Secretary Tilley has ordered release of surveillance video from inside the facility to the family. The family will receive a full copy of the footage once Kentucky State Police closes its investigation.
  • Justice reforms: The Cabinet is planning a comprehensive examination of policies and proceedings along with a review of employee performance to shape reforms going forward. In addition, the cabinet will enlist an external organization to conduct a similar review an recommend reforms. 

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