Local News

Resident of Apex group home left in van for 6 hours

Posted July 9, 2013

— Wake County authorities say they don't plan to file charges against two employees of an Apex group home after a resident with autism suffered a possible heat stroke when he was left in a van for more than six hours.

Police said Curtis Williams Jr., 35, was among six residents of the home, at 306 N. Mason St., who were taken to a work assignment in Fuquay-Varina Friday morning and that employees did not notice that he did not get out of the van.

They returned to Apex and parked the van for the day. Employees on another shift going to pick up the residents at their job discovered Williams around 3 p.m. and called 911.

Apex Police Capt. Ann Stephens said the employees who found Williams put cold towels on him to reduce his body temperature while they waited for help. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was treated and released.

"He was very lucky," Stephens said. "It could have been tragic."

Friday's high temperature at Raleigh-Durham International Airport reached 89 degrees.

Van Man from Apex group home left in van for hours

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, cars parked in direct sunlight can reach internal temperatures up to 131 degrees when outside temperatures are 80 degrees to 100 degrees.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Latour called the case an "incident of bad judgment" but said it did not warrant criminal charges.

"We looked at it, and technically, there wasn't a crime committed," he said. "Under the state statutes for a group home, to have committed a crime, there would have to be a pattern of neglect and some evidence of injury.

Williams's father, Curtis Williams Sr., said he was disappointed in the prosecutor's decision and doesn't understand how his son, at 6 feet tall, could not have been noticed in the van.

"This is unacceptable," he said. "He was in the van for six-and-a-half hours with no air and no water. It's so horrendous, the horror he went through. I don't know how he survived."

Curtis Williams Sr. said his son has severe autism and no communication skills. Although he is physically capable of getting out of the van, he has to be told what to do. The work assignments, the elder Williams said, are usually menial tasks, and his son has to be directed at every step.

The group home is run by Louisville-based ResCare Inc., which operates group homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in 29 states, including 16 in Wake County.

Sheryl Zerbe, a spokeswoman for the company, said in a statement that the company "deeply regrets" the situation and that it has "extensive controls in place to protect the people we serve."

"We take our responsibility to provide a safe environment for the people who rely on us for their daily living needs seriously," she said. "We do not tolerate any actions that endanger the people we serve."

Zerbe, however, did not say whether the two employees face any disciplinary actions, saying company policy prohibits her from sharing personnel actions.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the Mason Street group home is a six-bed intermediate care facility for people with intellectual disabilities. It was licensed in 1993 and has been successfully re-certified annually.

Health and Human Services spokesman Ricky Diaz said a complaint was filed against the home with the Division of Health Service Regulation in 2008 but that it was unsubstantiated. Another was filed in 2010 because of a medication error, but state officials determined the home successfully put measures in place to prevent it from happening again.

Diaz said the division recently received a new complaint about the home but would not say if it was linked to Williams because he is unable to speak about pending investigations.

"We take every complaint or infraction seriously," he said. "We work closely to see if any rules were broken and work closely with our providers to maintain the safety of the residents."

45 Comments

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  • jms7469 Jul 10, 7:47 p.m.

    I am outraged that this could happen & that no one is being held accountable for this action.
    I have a son who is autisic & is almost 20 years old. Just because they are not little children doesn't mean they don't need watching over just as closely at this age.
    Do these parents not deserve the same justic for their child that a "normal child would receive without a disability.
    Check out my FB page Autisim - Parents with Autistic Adult Children

  • jimmylinn Jul 10, 5:43 p.m.

    I just don't understand how they couldnot have seen him. They stopped the van and let the other folks off then got back in the van and drove back to the home and still didn't see him. Two people. What was going on during this time?

  • whoami Jul 10, 5:29 p.m.

    How can there not be charges filed? Did he have to die in order for the DA to take notice?

  • jessiepike Jul 10, 3:18 p.m.

    This is just another case were people are not held acouttable for there actions. That's one of the problems with this whole society.

  • crystalswisher Jul 10, 1:15 p.m.

    people are treated so inhumanely......sometimes.

  • mikkbarn Jul 10, 10:19 a.m.

    As a parent of two autistic boys this story is extremely frightening. The level of incompetence and lack of accountability is nauseating. Why are charges not being filed? Who is responsible for the care of the individuals? Surely they should be accounted for at both the group home and at their employer. To leave any living thing in a hot car like that is inhuman and completely irresponsible. Some of the characteristics of Autism is both limited processing and communication skills. People with these types of disabilities need a certain level of support. If the group home, transportation, or employer is not able to provide the support needed then this needs to be investigated. I hope Assistant District Attorney Patrick Latour will change his opinion on this and do the right thing. This is just disgusting.

  • loveson23 Jul 10, 9:23 a.m.

    I agree with some of the other comments. If this was a child or a dog,someone would be in jail.It appears this persons rights was violated. This was an act of neglect. These employees deserves more than disciplinary action. I have worked with individual with developmental disabilites for over 30 years, if this have happened in another state, the employees including the manager would of been charged. People with developmental disabilites are placed in these homes to be safe and taken care of, not neglected.I have actually seen employees with this company going into a liquor store with the people they take care of left sitting alone in the van.

  • rushbot Jul 10, 8:12 a.m.

    this is outrageous..the DA needs to be recalled!

  • mcraineycrazies Jul 9, 7:53 p.m.

    wowww, if i was the dad, i would go after them, this is not right at all, i cannot believe they are letting them off

  • nicolle Jul 9, 7:53 p.m.

    "Zerbe, however, did not say whether the two employees face any disciplinary actions, saying company policy prohibits her from sharing personnel actions." Nevermind "disciplinary actions" -- I can't imagine how these two aren't fired IMMEDIATLY and should never work in health/adult/child care EVER again. If this is an "incident of bad judgment" then I hate to see what neglect is. :(

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