Carl DeBrodie

Photo of Carl DeBrodie, a young man wearing a brown sweater. He has pale skin, blond hair, and a goatee. He is smiling, showing a gap in his front teeth.Name: Carl DeBrodie.
Died: April 24, 2017 (Body found); reported missing April 17, 2017; died some time before that.
Age at death: 31.
Cause of death: Medical neglect.
Location: Fulton, Missouri, USA.

Carl DeBrodie was visually impaired, intellectually disabled, and autistic. Born to a mother who was also disabled, he spent his first years living with her. As a young teen, Carl met Mary Martin, who was assigned as his “big sister” in a Big Brothers, Big Sisters program, and eventually she became his legal guardian.

Living with Mary, Carl was a fun-loving, busy teen. He played with the family dogs, went to public school, and spent his free time working on and riding go-karts. At school, although he couldn’t write or speak very well, he worked out ways to communicate with gestures and sounds and made friends with classmates. He liked driving an ATV and would go as fast as he could get away with.

Carl graduated high school at 18, then worked for a sheltered workshop. He lived with his guardian until age 21; then he stayed at a group home for a little while before moving back in with his mother.

But then the courts made Carl a ward of the county and said he had to move to a group home. Mary waged a five-year legal battle, trying to regain guardianship of Carl and offering to adopt him, but she was denied because Carl couldn’t speak well enough to convince the court that he wanted to be adopted rather than live in the group home.

For the last nine years of his life, Carl lived at a group home for people with developmental disabilities. His mother used to meet him at restaurants, but one or two years before his death, the group home told his mother that Carl could no longer see her because her visits “made him anxious”. In reality, Carl looked forward to visits from his mother and cried when she couldn’t come.

Carl’s mother didn’t realize that her legal rights were being violated. She assumed that the group home had the right to tell her that she couldn’t see her son, so she complied.

Mary, Carl’s guardian, also visited him. During a visit, she saw bruises all over Carl, so she called a hotline and reported the abuse. Immediately, her visits with him were terminated, and nothing was ever done about her reports. Even Carl’s case manager didn’t make the monthly visits they were required to make. Now entirely isolated, Carl became even more vulnerable.

Carl and other group home inmates had been made to fight each other for the amusement of the staff. After one such fight, Carl was injured, and was left in a bathtub, where he died.

Carl was reported missing when ownership of his group home was transferred to a new company; he had actually been missing for several months at the time, but his group home had not reported it.

The search for Carl lasted eight days. His family offered a reward; police and community volunteers turned out to help search for him.

When Carl’s body was found, encased in concrete in a storage container, it became clear that he had been dead for some time. Members of his community gathered to hold a vigil for him, and police are investigating the case.

Two of the group home staff eventually pleaded guilty to taking Carl home when he started having medical problems, letting him die, and hiding his body.

One nurse lost her license for falsifying records that said Carl was alive.

Carl’s mother is bringing a wrongful-death lawsuit against the group home.

Mary, his former guardian, also tried to sue the group home, but her lawsuit was rejected because she wasn’t his guardian anymore, probably by the same judge who had decided she was not allowed to be his guardian.

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