Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hidden camera captures employees abusing women with Autism Spectrum Disorder

As Nassau police continued to search for two health aides whoallegedly joined in the abuse of an autistic woman at a Uniondalegroup home, authorities said yesterday that investigators don'tbelieve any other residents of the home were victims of such anattack. A hidden camera captured the beating of a 50-year-old woman at PLUSGroup Home Inc. with a shoe and a wooden hanger, and the footage ledto the arrests Friday of two of the home's employees, authoritiessaid. "At this time, we are satisfied that there are no other victims,"Nassau police Det. Sgt. Michael Williams said at a news conference inBaldwin. He said that if anyone suspects others have been abused atthe home, they should call Nassau's Crime Stoppers hotline at800-244-TIPS. PLUS Group Home released a statement yesterday, saying it was amessage from a parent of the victim. "As a parent of a child who has resided and will continue to residein a residence operated by PLUS, I have full confidence in thisagency and its handling of this situation," said the parent, whorequested anonymity. Terri Cancilla, the home's executive director, said she hadsuspected staff members were abusing the autistic woman, who isunable to communicate her needs and had visible bruises. Two weeksafter noticing the bruises, Cancilla said, she installed the camerain an air conditioning vent of the woman's room. The alleged instances of abuse were caught on tape from Aug. 9 toThursday. The tape was handed over to police the next day. Arrested on charges of endangering an incompetent person andsecond-degree harassment were Johny Djhon-Felix, 33, of St. Albans,Queens, and Nelly Gedeon, 20, of Uniondale. Djhon-Felix also wascharged with fourth-degree larceny for allegedly stealing the cameraafter he noticed it. Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Neither could bereached for comment yesterday. Images from the camera were stored on other equipment and handedover to police for the investigation. Police have said two other employees were involved in four instancesof abusing the woman. Police declined to release their namesyesterday. All four workers were fired. The group home, which has 10 residents, has been open since 1986. Signs of abuseTelltale signs of physical, sexual or psychological abuse of theelderly, according to the National Center of Elder Abuse, funded bythe federal Administration on Aging: Bruises, black eyes, welts, lacerations, rope marks, broken bonesand fractures and sprains. Bruises around the breasts or genital area, unexplained venerealdisease or infections, and torn, stained or bloody underclothing. Odd behavior such as biting, rocking or sucking, or a tendency tobecome agitated. Anyone who suspects elder abuse should contact police or New YorkState's program of Protective Services for Adults at 800-342-3009.