Prosecutor: Staffers lied 32 times about checking on incarcerate - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Prosecutor: Staffers lied 32 times about checking on incarcerated teen Gynnya McMillen

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Two former employees of a state juvenile-detention center in Hardin County lied about performing more than two dozen bed checks on 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen during the time she died, according to recently released court records.

Former supervisors Reginald Windham and Victor Holt "knowingly recorded false information" on room observation sheets 15 and 17 times, respectively, on the night of Jan. 10 and the next morning, according to documents filed in their criminal cases on July 28.

Windham and Holt were on different shifts at the Lincoln Village Youth Center, both responsible for checking on Gynnya every 15 minutes during the roughly 24 hours she was in custody.

Both men were fired and charged with official misconduct stemming from what authorities say was their failure to perform regular bed checks and falsifying logs.

Assistant Hardin County Attorney Phillip Moore wrote in court records that while there were other employees at the jail facility at the time, it is not known if any witnessed Windham and Holt failing to check on Gynnya or falsifying the records.

Another employee, Christopher Johnson, was fired on April 15 for failing to perform bed checks and falsifying logs. He has not been charged.

Moore did not return a phone message seeking comment on Friday.

Video surveillance of the teen that shows her last movements and any interaction with guards was not put into court records and is available only for defense attorney J. Clark Baird to review at the Hardin County Attorney's office, according to the records.

The coroner, Dr. William Lee, said the video shows Gynnya changed positions in her bed about 12 a.m. and then did not move again. He estimated she had been dead about three hours when a sheriff's deputy arrived at the Lincoln Village Regional Juvenile Detention Center to bring her to court about 10 a.m. on Jan. 11. 

Employees entered her room several times, yet left without interacting with the teen, officials have said. 

The defense will also be provided with the audio of the evidence presented to the grand jury which indicted the two men.

A lengthy investigative report by the Kentucky State Police was also turned over to the defense, but was not included in court records. An internal investigation by the state Department for Juvenile Justice has been turned over to the judge in the case for review.

Baird said the state police report has been sealed. 

"Our hope is the evidence will show the behavior that my clients are accused of that is allegedly criminal was, in fact, a procedure and protocol implemented and adopted by the facility and directed by my clients immediate supervisor and highers ups in the facility," Baird said in an interview. "I hope to get records that show my clients were regularly asked to (falsify records) weeks or even months later. My clients were simply following orders."

Baird said he didn't know how many times Holt and Windham did check on Gynnya but noted that she was under 24-hour video surveillance and there was always an employee watching her. Sometimes, his clients, were busy with administrative duties and couldn't make the checks every 15 minutes, he said.

The employee watching her on video indicated "she hadn't tried to self-harm and was not acting out. She was simply laying on the bed, no commotion," Baird said. 

In addition, Baird said male workers are not allowed to go into a female inmate's cell by themselves, so the checks would have only been made through a window. 

Baird had not yet seen some of the evidence produced by prosecutors. 

Unlike Jefferson County, many other courts across the state do not make evidence available to the public.

The only documents made public on July 28 were the bill of particulars, briefly laying out the facts of the case, and other documents revealing what other evidence will be used at trial.

Other evidence in the case includes:

  • Gynnya’s medical records
  • Photos from her autopsy
  • Dispatch communication from Gynnya’s arrest and transport to Lincoln Village
  • DVD of arresting officer’s in-car video transporting Gynnya to the detention center
  • DVD of interview with arresting officer
  • Kentucky State Police photos from death investigation
  • DVD of Hardin County EMS radio traffic

Baird has said his clients are being targeted because both men are black.

A state investigation found that six employees failed to do regular bed checks and falsified departmental logs.

Hardin Commonwealth's Attorney Shane Young has said race had nothing to do with the grand jury's decision to indict Windham and Holt.

"We took (to the grand jury) the two people who were the most egregious violators," Young has said. "I believe the evidence supports that those are the two people who should have been indicted."

In April, Baird filed a motion in Hardin County District Court asking prosecutors to turn over video camera footage that he says shows a white Lincoln Village Regional Juvenile Detention Center supervisor who was assigned to perform regular bed checks on Gynnya.

That supervisor and Windham and Holt were on different shifts.

In the court records filed on July 28, Moore said that video footage showing "all bed checks conducted" by the supervisor and his observation sheets were available for the defense.

Baird said in previous court records that Windham and Holt, "followed the protocol that was given to them by their immediate supervisor. The same protocol that was used by not only by the defendants, but also every other youth worker, youth worker supervisor, teachers, and even the administrators."

Employees were supposed to check in on Gynnya at required 15-minute intervals, but Baird said the lack of staffing and other duties made that impossible.

It was only after Gynnya’s death that the bed-check practice "comes under examination," Baird said.

A spokesman for the Shelbyville Police Department has said Gynnya was arrested about 2 a.m. on Jan. 10 on a domestic violence related offense at her home and charged with 4th degree assault.

Officials have said the teen was physically restrained by staff because she refused to remove her hooded sweatshirt as part of the booking process when she arrived.

McMillen was found unresponsive in her cell. An autopsy determined that she died in her sleep from a rare heart condition known as sudden cardiac arrhythmia. 

Windham and Holt could face up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $250. The next court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 2.

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