Two former state workers plead guilty in connection to death of Gynnya McMillen
Former supervisors Reginald Windham and Victor Holt pleaded guilty to official misconduct 2nd degree and agreed to pay a $200 fine.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Two former state workers pleaded guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor official misconduct in the 2016 death of 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen in a juvenile-detention center in Hardin County.
Former supervisors Reginald Windham and Victor Holt pleaded guilty in Hardin District Court to official misconduct 2nd degree and agreed to pay a $200 fine. They will not have to spend any time in jail.
The men were accused of lying about performing more than two dozen bed checks on the teen during the time she died.
Defense attorney J. Clark Baird declined to comment because the men are also being sued by Gynnya’s family.
Last week, Baird filed a motion claiming the men were singled out because of their race, noting that five other employees "engaged in the very same conduct" as Windham and Holt, yet were not charged.
The five employees, who are white, were also found to have skipped bed checks and falsified forms, Baird said.
One of them, Christopher Johnson, was fired for failing to perform bed checks and falsifying logs. He has not been charged. He missed and falsified checks seven times.
Holt and Windham, who are black, were responsible for falsifying information 15 and 17 times, according to prosecutors.
They 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.
A lawsuit filed by Gynnya's family accuses Lincoln Village employees of using "martial arts restraint techniques" on the teen prior to putting her into an isolation cell, "unmonitored and without medical care, for hours leading to her death from a cardiac event," according to court documents.
In the minutes before she died, McMillen coughed a few times and seized in an "uncontrolled manner," while a guard watched, according to the federal lawsuit filed last year.
An expert witness for Gynnya's family believes the coughing was McMillen gasping and losing consciousness and that Windham, who heard the coughing and saw the seizure, could have "in all likelihood saved the girl's life" if he had taken action, according to the suit.
Windham, according to the suit, said he checked on Gynnya "to make sure she had not thrown up and was choking or something like that." He looked through her cell door at 11:39 p.m. for 18 seconds, watching "her last gasps and dying breaths and final uncontrollable movements and seizure," the suit claims.
Windham "did not lift a finger to help her, instead returning to his desk," according to the suit.
An attorney for Windham and Holt has said they were following protocol at the center.
According to the suit, Windham admitted that "he sees so many things that could have been done that could have prevented this from happening,” including doing bed checks and going into the cell to do a wellness check.
Gynnya was arrested about 2 a.m. on Jan. 10, 2016, on a domestic violence related offense at her home and charged with 4th degree assault.
The day after McMillen died, the facility's superintendent told investigators "it appears we did everything right," according to an internal investigation.
But despite Michelle Grady's initial claim, an internal investigation lays out myriad mistakes from staffers at all levels throughout the teen's 24-hour stay.
Staffers repeatedly lied about checking on the teen, ate her food when she did not respond, left her lying in the same position for 10 hours without a closer examination to see if she was okay and failed to immediately provide CPR when they learned she was not breathing, among other failures, according to an internal investigation in court records.
While an autopsy determined that Gynnya died in her sleep from a rare heart condition known as sudden cardiac arrhythmia, the internal investigation concluded that "had staff conducted their checks as required, they might have detected a medical issue with her and provided the proper medical assistance that may have prevented her death."
Officials at the center admitted they do not check video to see if the bed checks are actually made. This has led to a culture where staffers often skip the checks, according to the records.
The internal investigation found that "not verifying the accuracy" of the observation logs "has caused the staff to become complacent. This in turn became a systemic practice of some staff falsifying the Room Observation Forms."
This "systemic breakdown led to staff possibly not noticing (Gynnya) in a medically stressed state," the internal investigation concluded.
This story will be updated.
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