Many concerns have been raised about the state’s oversight of care of the developmentally disabled in the wake of the alleged fatal assault of Dennis Perry on September 16 at the Templeton Developmental Center.
But a failure to notify investigating authorities about the incident may not be one of those issues.
It seems there is some disagreement between the Worcester County DA’s office and the Disabled Persons Protection Commission as to when and by whom the DA was notified of the alleged assault. The assault was allegedly committed by Anthony Remillard, a resident at Templeton who had been admitted there despite an apparent record of previous assaults and other crimes.
As you may know, The Worcester Telegram reported on October 27 that the DA’s office was never notified by Templeton Center officials about the alleged assault of Perry, and only learned of it from the chief state medical examiner’s office. Paul Jarvey, a spokesman for the DA’s office, confirmed that account to me after the Telegram & Gazette story broke and again when I spoke with him on November 6. He said it was only after Perry died on September 27 that the chief state medical examiner contacted Templeton Police who then contacted the state police detective unit attached to the DA’s office.
As a result, I posted here on October 30, asking whether the Patrick administration covered up a serious crime at a Department of Developmental Services facility.
However, Emil DeRiggi, DPPC deputy executive director, emailed me on November 6 that the DPPC was in fact notified of the alleged assault on September 17, one day after the incident occurred. DeRiggi later contended that according to the DPPC’s database, the DPPC’s state police unit notified the Worcester DA’s office that same day – September 17 – about the alleged assault.
Sgt. Timothy Grant of the DPPC state police unit said to me yesterday that he has a copy of a September 17 email that his office sent to the DA about the alleged assault, along with a copy of the DPPC intake form regarding the incident. Thus, according to the DPPC’s account, the Worcester DA was notified about the alleged assault one day after it occurred, and at least 10 days earlier than the Worcester DA claims to have been notified. DeRiggi said he could not reveal who notified the DPPC about the alleged assault.
So, while it is not absolutely clear who reported the case, it would seem that if the DPPC’s account of the manner and timing of the notification is correct, it would have been impossible for DDS to have covered the matter up.
On November 6, Jarvey had told me he could not comment on the DPPC’s assertion that the DPPC had been notified of the incident on September 17th. When I called him yesterday morning to discuss Sgt. Grant’s claim that the DPPC’s state police unit notified the DA of the alleged assault on September 17, Jarvey said he would “double check” the DA’s records and get back to me.
I sent an email yesterday to DDS Commissioner Elin Howe, asking whether she would comment on whether and when DDS notified either the DPPC or the DA, or both, about the alleged incident.
I would note that none of this addresses the DA’s additional claim that Templeton administrators also failed to report the alleged assault directly to the DA, as required by law. And it does not address an alleged failure by DDS to report an incident eight months earlier in which Remillard allegedly assaulted a Templeton staff worker. That incident was supposed to have been reported to the district court judge who had ordered Remillard sent to Templeton.
In any event, as we’ve said before about this case, there are many other questions and concerns about DDS’s management and oversight that are raised by this case — in particular, why Remillard was admitted to Templeton and whether the supervision of him there was adequate.
In a November 7 letter sent to Bonnie Valade, the mother of a Templeton resident, Howe said the circumstances surrounding the assault of Perry and the process under which Remillard was admitted to Templeton are under review by DDS. Howe maintained in the letter that while staffing at Templeton has been reduced in recent years as the residential population there has been phased down, the ratios of staff-to-residents are currently at “the highest level they have ever been.”
Howe’s letter added that: “(Templeton) has been an excellent program and has supported individuals with challenging behaviors successfully for many years.” She maintained that the center’s residential admissions practices “have remained consistent historically including throughout the closure period.”
All of that may be the case, but, as Valade has pointed out, many of the best and most experienced staff at Templeton have left the center since it was marked for closure by the administration in 2008. Despite the rosy cast that Howe’s letter has placed on the staffing and admissions situation at Templeton, the fact that an intellectually disabled man was assaulted and killed, allegedly by a resident at the center who was supposedly under close supervision, indicates that something is wrong there.
We believe an independent and comprehensive review of the circumstances surrounding Dennis Perry’s death is needed, and have asked the Legislature’s Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities Committee to conduct that review and hold a hearing as part of it.