Training clears facility, not aides, in heat-related death

Share this content:
Rowe ‘can’t fault the facility’ for the resident’s death in a hot van.
Rowe ‘can’t fault the facility’ for the resident’s death in a hot van.

Two former caretakers at an Illinois long-term care facility have been charged with Class 3 felony counts of criminal neglect in the death of a 69-year-old resident with developmental disabilities, who was left in a van for several hours with outside temperatures above 90 degrees. 

Elizabeth Cook and Heidi Jones, who at the time were employees of Good Shepherd Manor in Momence, IL, face a minimum sentence of two to five years, and could serve up to 10 years, in prison if convicted in the death of Charles McLaughlin. He was largely nonverbal and had been a resident at the facility for more than 40 years, according to the Kankakee Daily Journal. 

In July, the state's Department of Public Health published a 32-page report arguing that Good Shepherd had “failed to develop and implement policies and procedures documenting protocols to ensure the safety of residents when participating in community outings.” The document alleged that the facility had violated its own policy barring any outdoor activities when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees (the high that day was listed at 92.7 degrees).

Despite these findings, Kankakee County State's Attorney Jim Rowe did not charge the facility in McLaughlin's death, instead noting the “clear connection between [the workers'] failures and this person's death.”

“I don't believe that the facility was deficient in its training. I disagree with the state's report,” Rowe said. “Perhaps they didn't have the same documents we had, but I think Good Shepherd's training program ... was more than adequate. In this instance I can't fault the facility.”

The facility “continues to cooperate with all law enforcement and other agencies as they investigate and respond to the June 11 incident,” according to Meredith Duncan, an attorney for Good Shepherd.