Did the Patrick administration cover up a serious crime last month at a Department of Developmental Services facility?
That question is certainly raised by a story on Sunday in The Worcester Telegram & Gazette about the death of Dennis Perry, an intellectually disabled man, who was allegedly assaulted at the Templeton Developmental Center.
In what has been described by witnesses as an unprovoked attack, Anthony Remillard, 22, allegedly shoved Perry, 64, into a boiler on September 16 while the two men were working at the Templeton facility’s dairy barn. Perry suffered a head injury in the incident and died at UMass Memorial Medical Center on September 27.
We’ve raised a number of questions about the admission and supervision of Remillard at Templeton, but Sunday’s Telegram & Gazette article reveals many new facts about the case, based on court records. Among them was that Templeton administrators never reported the alleged attack on Perry by Remillard to police or the district attorney.
According to the newspaper, investigators learned of the alleged assault from the state medical examiner. When state police arrested Remillard on October 2 — more than two weeks after the alleged assault — he was still living at the Templeton Center.
In failing to report the alleged assault on Perry, the administration appears to have violated a state law (M.G.L. Chapter 19B, Section 10), which requires the superintendent of any DDS facility to report any serious crime at that facility to the district attorney within a week. It seems questionable that the superintendent of a state facility should be given even that much time to get around to reporting a serous crime to police. But, in this case, more than two weeks apparently went by with no report.
Moreover, as a spokesman for the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office confirmed to me, by the time investigators learned of the alleged assault, Dennis Perry was already dead, meaning this case involves a potentially unreported homicide. It seems unlikely that top administrators at DDS were not informed about both the alleged assault when it happened and Dennis Perry’s death 11 days later. Why did they not report either one?
But that’s not the only thing the administration apparently failed to report about this case.
According to the Telegram & Gazette story, a Worcester Superior Court judge had set conditions in sending Remillard to Templeton last year, one of which was that any incidents involving him be reported to the court. Eight months before he allegedly shoved Perry in the barn, Remillard allegedly punched a Templeton staff member in the chest and had to be restrained. Templeton never reported that incident, the newspaper reported, quoting investigators. (The D.A. spokesman confirmed to me that alleged reporting failure as well.)
As the newspaper previously reported, Remillard had been charged prior to his admission to Templeton in a May 2012 arson in a vacant building in Worcester. At his arraignment on that charge, the Worcester County D.A. had recommended that he be evaluated at either Bridgewater State or Worcester State Hospital. But the recommendation was rejected by the judge, and Remillard was allowed to enter a “pre-trial release commitment” at Templeton, a less secure facility.
On Sunday, The Telegram & Gazette reported that Remillard was developmentally disabled and repeatedly found not competent to stand trial in previous criminal cases. His history includes charges that he hit his 12-year-old brother in the face with a baseball bat in May 2011, and that four months later he threatened someone with a knife and punched him in the face. In addition, in June 2012, one month after he allegedly set fire to the vacant building in Worcester, Remillard was admitted to a psychiatric facility due to a “psychotic break,” and cut off a GPS bracelet.
Remillard did have a treatment plan at Templeton, which required that he be monitored by staff at all times except when in his room with his door alarm on, the newspaper reported. Among the many questions raised by this case is how he could have been in a position to allegedly assault and fatally injure Perry if he was under close staff supervision.
“My concern is that a man is dead, and there were things that were supposed to happen that could have prevented this, and they didn’t happen,” District Attorney Joseph Early told the Worcester paper.
Thomas Frain, COFAR’s president, is quoted in the article as noting that the administration is moving to close and privatize intermediate care facilities such as Templeton. As a result, most of the residents remaining in these state facilities are elderly. “This population is old, frail and medically needy,” Frain said. “Why were they holding someone violent and dangerous with a docile 64-year-old man? Someone is dead for no apparent reason. If you’re going to take someone like that, you have an obligation to keep everyone safe. I think they should answer for what happened there.”
The only answer the Telegram & Gazette was able to get from the administration in response to all of these questions is the same one-paragraph response we received when we asked for DDS’s policies and procedures regarding admissions and supervision of people with behavioral problems at Templeton. That response reads as follows:
In response to your basic questions about admission criteria and policies at Templeton Developmental Center, all individuals referred to TDC for admission must be eligible for supports by the Department of Developmental Services. Staffing and clinical services are individualized for each person and DDS works to promote the health and safety of all residents.
At the very least, we hope that state legislators will hold a hearing on the apparent administrative failures that allowed this tragedy to happen and the alleged failure on the part of the administration to report a serious crime to police.
It would be one thing if Dennis Perry’s death had happened out of the blue. But Remillard was well known to be dangerous and prosecutors were concerned enough about him that they didn’t want him sent to Templeton. DDS knew about Remillard’s background and apparently did not do enough to protect those around him. Coupled with this is the fact that the administration has been steadily downsizing staffing in facilities like Templeton and exposing remaining residents there to increasingly dangerous conditions.
On top of all of that, it appears there may be a policy in place of not reporting violent incidents even to police, and it’s hard to believe that policy does not come from the top at DDS and perhaps even at the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
It looks an awful lot to us like a cover-up was put in place in this case. Certainly, so far, no one at DDS or in the administration as a whole is publicly accepting any responsibility for what happened to Dennis Perry. There seems to be no accountability.