William Alcantara

Photo of a heavyset young man with dark hair and pale skin, smiling for the camera.Name: William Alcantara.
Died: December 10, 2020.
Age at death: 24.
Cause of death: Deep vein thrombosis.
Location: Chula Vista, California, USA.

Details:
William lived with his parents as a young adult. When he had to be taken to the emergency room, the state took him away from his parents and put him in a group home. His father believes this was because he had a habit of making waves–complaining about William not being scheduled for a dental appointment he needed, and later on in the group home, complaining that William was over-medicated so that he became tired but could not sleep.

At the group home, William began to lose weight. Originally a chubby young man, he became thin and his father worried he was going to starve to death. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, William and his parents were unable to visit, and even phone and video chat was becoming less available. William’s father told the county guardians about his son’s situation–how he was getting skinnier and more unhappy and unhealthy–but nothing was done.

William died from deep venous thrombosis, and on autopsy it was noted that his body was badly bruised. His death certificate calls his death “natural”, but his family believes he died from being forced to stay in one place all day, not allowed even to walk around. “The caregiver kept assaulting my son,” William’s father says, “punishing him to keep… calm.”

Deep vein thrombosis happens when a blood clot blocks a major blood vessel. The risk factors for DVT are old age, recent surgery, pregnancy, obesity, trauma, and inactivity. Of these risk factors, William had only two: Trauma (the bruising to his body) and inactivity (being forced to stay quiet in the same place all day, or perhaps restrained). DVT is a known risk factor of restraint or forced inactivity. Although DVT can happen without risk factors, the bruising to William’s body and the fact that this death was that of a young, otherwise healthy man makes it clear to me that there should be further investigation.

References: Father of son who died files negligence claim against San Diego County

Caleb Walker

Photo: A smiling, light-skinned, dark-haired man with a full beard.Name: Caleb Walker.
Died: January 25, 2020.
Age at death: 27.
Cause of death: Restraint-related (Positional asphyxia).
Location: Florida, USA.

Details:
Caleb was his parents’ youngest son, and he had been living at home with them; but Caleb’s parents were getting older and knew they couldn’t take care of him much longer. So they found a group home that specialized in autism, and Caleb moved there.

At the group home, staff restrained Caleb, putting pressure on his chest so that he could not breathe. His death was ruled a homicide by positional asphyxia, but no criminal charges were possible. His parents are, however, suing the facility.

References:
State-funded group home where man with developmental disabilities died has closed
Attorneys sue Lake County group home over death of 27-year-old man with autism
Family of autistic man who died in local group home announces wrongful death lawsuit – WFTV
Wrongful death lawsuit filed for man with autism who died at Florida group home
Lawyers announce wrongful death lawsuit against Orange County group home
Family of autistic man who died in local group home announces wrongful death lawsuit

Merna Aprem

Photo of a young woman with wavy brown hair and lightly tanned skin, wearing a black dress.Name: Merna Aprem.
Died: May 23, 2019.
Age at death: 20.
Cause of death: Drowning.
Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Details:
Merna grew up as one of six children. She had epilepsy, often waking up with bites on her lips from having had an overnight seizure; falls were a danger for her.

She was an avid Star Wars fan who loved swimming and visiting coffee shops. She was a creative young woman who expressed herself in singing, art, and short-story writing.

At 20 years old, Merna moved into a group home where her family trusted she’d be cared for properly. Instead, she drowned when she had a seizure because she was left in the bathtub without an attendant.

References:
NDIS sues provider over 2019 bathtub death
Mum wants answers after daughter dies in bath at Sydney group care facility
Autistic woman’s death ‘not an isolated event’
Mum demands answers after death in care
Autistic girl found dead in bath of care home days before her 21st birthday
‘They failed to protect my daughter’: Mum’s grief after daughter dies in care

Matthew Cox

Photo: A teenage boy sits in the backseat of a car, smiling. He has fair skin and blond hair in a buzz cut.Name: Matthew Cox.
Died: October 27, 2018.
Age at death: 21.
Cause of death: Internal injuries.
Location: Mobile, Alabama, USA.

Details:
From Matthew’s obituary:
Matthew was an exceptional young man who had a passion for country music, Alabama football, Nascar (Jimmy Johnson was his favorite driver), and mac ‘n’ cheese. He loved to sing and was full of laughter…. Matthew was an “angel in human clothing,” who left a positive impact on every life he touched. Matthew loved everyone and everyone loved Matthew.

Matthew lived at a group home. One of the caregivers there had been abusing him physically and verbally. When Matthew was 21, he wet his pants, and when the caregiver saw this, he was so angry that he pushed Matthew down and stomped on him. Matthew died of internal injuries.

The caregiver has been charged with murder. Matthew’s family, on learning that the group home ignored the man’s violent criminal record, are pressing a wrongful death lawsuit.

The Autism Society of Alabama dedicated a Christmas tree to Matthew for the Christmas after he died. Because Matthew loved fire trucks, the tree was decorated with lots of small fire trucks.

References:
Group home worker pleads guilty to murder in stomping death of autistic patient
Group home worker pleads guilty in autistic man’s death
Matthew Charles Cox Obituary – Mobile, AL
Bond set at $200,000 for caregiver accused of murder
Mentally ill patient stomped to death by, Mobile group home employee, ex-con, prosecutors say
Mobile police: group home resident dies after abuse, employee charged with murder
Group home caregiver charged with murdering mentally ill man in Mobile
Group home employee accused of murdering patient has criminal history
Legal action against Mobile care home after autistic man stomped to death
UPDATE: Employee at group home pleads not guilty in client death
Funeral service Saturday for special needs man killed in group home incident
Wrongful death lawsuit filed in killing of autistic man at Mobile care home
Family of autistic man killed at group home files suit
Reaction to lawsuit by family of dead autistic man in Mobile
Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against Mobile Care Home After Autistic Man Stomped to Death
Mobile man accused of murder in group home death to face grand jury
Care home murder suspect bound over to grand jury
Christmas tree dedicated to autistic man killed in Mobile
Group home provider connected to October beating death shut down by state
Group home connected to autistic man’s death shuts its doors

Timothy Cortinas

Photo of a middle-aged balding man, with olive skin, dark hair, and salt-and-pepper beard; he is looking at the camera with a slight smile. He is wearing a red T-shirt that says "Lucky Brand Cycles" in fancy script.Name: Timothy Cortinas.
Died: August 3, 2018.
Age at death: 51.
Cause of death: Neglect (Left in hot car).
Location: West Covina, California, USA.

Details:
Timothy was autistic, with epilepsy and an intellectual disability; so he lived in a group home and rode an assisted transport van to and from his daily activities.

On the way back home, the driver forgot to drop Timothy off; instead he just drove to his own home and parked the van, leaving Timothy inside. There, Timothy–who had only very limited speech and would not have left the van without being prompted–died of heat stroke.

His mother misses him dearly and visits his grave every week.

The driver was charged with involuntary manslaughter, and his mother is suing for wrongful death.

References:
Sheriff’s detectives investigating death of man found in car in West Covina
Man with intellectual disability found dead, may have accidentally been left in car
Driver charged in death of autistic Walnut man who was left inside car on hot day
Man Charged in Death of Intellectually Disabled Man Left in Hot Car in West Covina
Man Charged for Leaving Disabled Client in Hot Car Where He Slowly Died
Caretaker Surrenders to Face Charges in Death of Disabled Man Left in Hot Car in West Covina
Driver arrested, charged with manslaughter in death of disabled man in sweltering car