Experts: Intervention by juvenile detention center officer would - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Experts: Intervention by juvenile detention center officer would have likely saved Gynnya McMillen's life

Posted: Updated:
Gynnya McMillen Gynnya McMillen

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A prominent cardiologist will testify in the trial of a 16-year-old girl who died last year in a Kentucky-run youth detention center that the teen could have survived had a jail officer intervened while she was having a medical emergency.

Dr. Peter J. Schwartz, head of a cardiac center in Italy, has been called as an expert witness for the family of Gynnya McMillen, who died in her sleep on Jan. 10, 2016, from a rare heart condition known as sudden cardiac arrhythmia.

In court documents filed this week, Schwartz wrote he will testify that Gynnya died between 11:39 p.m. and 11:44 p.m., shortly after her body moved in “an uncontrolled manner” and an officer heard her cough.

Former supervisor Reginald Windham, according to the lawsuit, 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.

Schwartz looked at the evidence and concluded that if Windham had “inspected the cell and looked directly at Gynnya, he would have realized that she had lost consciousness or that she was losing it. A prompt resuscitative intervention and an emergency call would have in all likelihood saved the girl’s life.”

The coughs Windham heard was likely Gynnya gasping, Schwartz wrote.

“The sounds (gasping) emitted by patients in these conditions have led many of them to be saved by the spouse or partner sleeping in the same room,” he said. “Indeed, a prompt resuscitative intervention usually interrupts the deadly process rather easily, because they are essentially normal hearts.”

Another witness for the family, juvenile justice expert David Roush, said in court records he will testify that Windham failed to follow "accepted professional standards" and check to see if Gynnya was OK. 

Had he conducted "minimal adherence to policy and procedure," Gynnya's life would have likely been saved, according to Roush, a federal compliance monitor for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Gynnya’s family is seeking nearly $27 million in damages from current and past state employees as part of a lawsuit over her death.

A judge dismissed the state of Kentucky from the suit last year. The suit still names 13 current and past state workers as defendants, now sued as individuals and not within their official capacities, according to the judge's order.

Former supervisors Windham and Victor Holt pleaded guilty in August to official misconduct second degree and agreed to pay a $200 fine. They did have serve 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.

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.

An attorney for Windham has said he followed protocol at the center.

The lawsuit accuses Lincoln Village employees of using “martial arts restraint techniques” on McMillen 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 the court documents.

Gynnya was arrested about 2 a.m. on Jan. 10, 2016, on a domestic violence related offense at her home and charged with fourth 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, the 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 OK and failed to immediately provide CPR when they learned she was not breathing, among other failures, according to an internal investigation in court records.

Related Stories:

Copyright 2017 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.

  • Sign Up for WDRB's Sports Newsletter

    * denotes required fields

    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2017 WDRB. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.