3rd Detention Center Staffer Fired In Gynnya McMillen Case

Gynnya McMillen

Justice for Gynnya McMillen Facebook page

Gynnya McMillen

State juvenile justice officials have fired a third employee for skipping required bed checks on the day 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen died in a Hardin County juvenile facility.

Christopher Johnson, whose title was youth worker at Lincoln Village Regional Juvenile Detention Center, was fired effective April 15, according to a Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet spokesman. Two supervisors, Victor Holt and Reginald Windham, have also been dismissed.

Justice officials have not yet released the disciplinary letter outlining the causes of Johnson’s termination. But Justice and Public Safety Cabinet spokesman Mike Wynn said he was fired after investigators found that Johnson missed bed checks, falsified logs, ate food that was prepared for Gynnya and lied to investigators. Wynn said he wasn’t yet aware of Johnson’s firing when the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting asked last week if any other employees had been disciplined.

Holt and Windham each face 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.

(Read KyCIR’s coverage of Gynnya McMillen’s death)

An autopsy report said that Gynnya died in her sleep from a rare heart condition known as sudden cardiac arrhythmia.

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

Investigators also reviewed an exchange between Gynnya and staffers upon her entry into the facility on Jan. 10. 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.

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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