Stephen Komninos

Portrait photo of Stephen Komnios in a teal graduation gown and cap. He is a teenage boy with a wide smile and a gap between his front teeth, brown eyes, light brown hair, and fair skin.Name: Stephen J. Komninos.
Died: October 8, 2007.
Age at death: 22.
Cause of death: Negligence; Choked due to lack of supervision.
Location: Cherry Hill, New Jersey, USA.

At eight years old, Stephen moved into a group home. He would spend the rest of his life in such institutions. As an adult, he worked at shredding paper, selling bagels, and as a parking lot attendant.

Stephen’s teachers remember him as a sociable young man with non-verbal autism and a big smile. One teacher recalls how he used to share a pretzel with them every Wednesday; another remembers Stephen having fun at a Halloween party.

Stephen’s tendency to choke while eating was known, and his care plan specified that he was to be within arm’s reach of an aide at all times. Nevertheless, Stephen’s aide took him to a convenience store to buy a bagel, then left Stephen alone to buy himself a cigar. When the aide came back, Stephen was choking on the bagel, and his aide did not know how to administer first aid. Stephen died in the hospital.

Stephen’s family joined with the families of other disabled adults to advocate for the “Stephen Komninos Bill”, which was signed into law and increased oversight of group homes in New Jersey.

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