State Fires Second Detention Center Staffer In Gynnya McMillen Case

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Gynnya McMillen

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Gynnya McMillen

State juvenile justice officials have fired a second employee of the Hardin County juvenile detention center where 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen died in January.

Victor Holt, a supervisor at the Lincoln Village Regional Juvenile Detention Center, was fired earlier this week, according to his attorney, J. Clark Baird.

A spokesman for the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice confirmed Holt’s dismissal, saying it took effect April 14.

Holt was one of at least two supervisors on duty on the morning of Jan. 11, when Gynnya was found unresponsive in her room. Another supervisor, Reginald Windham, was fired in February.  (Read KyCIR’s coverage of Gynnya McMillen’s death)

Windham and Holt were each indicted last month on a charge of second-degree official misconduct, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $250. Hardin Commonwealth’s Attorney Shane Young said the charges stemmed from their failure to perform required bed checks on Gynnya. The charges are still pending.

An autopsy determined Gynnya died in her sleep from a rare heart condition known as sudden cardiac arrhythmia. (Read “Gynnya McMillen Died Of Medical Condition In Juvenile Detention Center, State Says”)

An internal investigation by the state Justice and Public Safety Cabinet found missteps and deficiencies in care, as well as misconduct, by employees at Lincoln Village. Six staffers failed to do regular bed checks and falsified the departmental logs, the state investigation found. A DJJ spokeswoman didn’t respond to a question about the status of the other employees involved.

The investigation concluded that none of those deficiencies figured into Gynnya’s death.

Baird said he believes the evidence in Holt’s case will show that Lincoln Village protocol requires employees to log bed checks even if they aren’t done.

“This is an effort by the facility or the DJJ itself to cover up activities in the facility which only came to light with the unfortunate and natural death of this child, that ultimately is totally unrelated to my clients,” Baird said.

Gynnya McMillen

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Gynnya McMillen

Investigators also reviewed an exchange between Gynnya and staffers upon her entry into the facility. Officials said she refused to remove her sweatshirt during the booking process and that a staffer put her in a physical restraint, an “Aikido restraint,” in order to make her comply. The investigation determined that the restraint also played no role in her death. Gynnya had arrived at the facility less than 28 hours earlier.

She was transported to Lincoln Village after a fight with her mother during a home visit in Shelbyville. Gynnya was living at Louisville’s Maryhurst, the state’s oldest child-welfare agency, whose programs include residential treatment, two community-based therapeutic group homes and foster care.

Between 6:30 and 8:30 the next morning, Gynnya did not respond to two offers of food or to an invitation to accept a telephone call from her mother. Only when a deputy sheriff arrived shortly before 10 a.m. to take her to court was Gynnya discovered to be not breathing. Not long after, she was pronounced dead.

Although cabinet officials have said Gynnya “was under constant supervision through video surveillance of her room” during her time in custody, investigators later determined that an employee neglected to check on her, in person, every 15 minutes as required.

The commissioner of the cabinet’s Department of Juvenile Justice, Bob Hayter, was fired in February.

Reporter Kate Howard can be reached at khoward@kycir.org and (502) 814.6546.

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