HOMES OF ILL REPUTE

IF YOU'RE MENTALLY RETARDED AND LIVING IN ARIZONA, BEWARE. THIS STATE IS NOT YOUR FRIEND.

W.A. was the last one aboard. Jones said later he noticed W.A. had "torn up" his lunch. Jones returned to the Cholla home to fix him another meal, noticing that W.A. was sleeping in the van's back seat.

At the home, Jones bumped into Jan Glaser--the detective's wife--who reminded him they had planned to go shopping. Somehow, Jones forgot W.A. was in the van, and no one from the Work Activity Center called the Cholla home to see why he wasn't there.

More than five hours passed, and it was time for Jones to pick up the group-home residents. The outside temperature on that day was ninety degrees; Jones later remembered how hot it was in the van. Although by this time W.A. was dead in the back seat, Jones didn't see him. He drove the van back to the center, where he was told W.A. wasn't there.

In a panic, Jones drove back to the Cholla home, still not noticing W.A. in the back seat. A few minutes later, he finally put it together. Jones ran to the van and found W.A.'s body. A coroner said W.A.'s cause of death was hyperthermia.

Gayle Howell still gets upset when she talks about W.A.'s death. But she doesn't completely fault Arvie Jones. "I want you to know that Arvie loved them all, especially W.A.," she says. "Arvie is a super person. But there were no safeguards in place to keep something like this from happening."

"He was an old, mentally retarded black man, and that's pretty far down on the list," adds Tom Berning, an attorney with the Center for Law in the Public Interest. "He just sort of died back there and nobody cared."

Berning looked at the case in June 1989. He termed the Casa Grande police investigation "competent, if not overly enthusiastic," and added Pinal County prosecutors had been right not to charge Arvie Jones.

Berning saved most of his venom for the state of Arizona. He pointed out that the state had done no independent investigation of W.A. Scott's death and "offered no analysis as to how such incidents could be prevented in the future . . . This case constitutes a serious case of neglect."

After months of bureaucratic foot-dragging on the case, the state finally issued a "corrective action plan." It called for AIRES to fire Arvie Jones, and to start check-in procedures when transporting group-home residents.

But AIRES had fired Jones the day after W.A. Scott died, and had already instituted the very policies the state was demanding. Five months after W.A. died, the state transferred the Cholla home license from AIRES to another firm. That was the end of it.

"The system failed badly," Tom Berning says. "We weren't looking to hang Arvie Jones. We just wanted to know why Mr. Scott was in the back of a van for hours without anyone knowing or saying a thing about it. The response of the state was pretty sorry, and their investigation was abysmal."

However, Linda Church, head of Developmental Disabilities Division's licensing unit, defends her agency's actions. "It was a stupid, stupid accident. It was not malicious or intentional. I think our agency did a good job of responding once we identified the problem."

But W.A. Scott's old pal, Gayle Howell, takes his death very personally.
"I get furious when I think about the things that happen to these people," Howell says. "They have the right to be protected from bad things. W.A. was a special kind of guy. I mean, his big thing in life was toy trucks, Tonka trucks. He was just an old kid."

ROSE MARIE RAYMOND grew up on the Gila River Indian Community near Sacaton. Now 24, she is mentally retarded and functions at about a fifth-grade level. She has been living at group homes or state institutions for years.

Late last year, someone impregnated Rose, probably at her Kadota group home, owned and operated by Developmental Systems Incorporated. In various police interviews, Rose named a 22-year-old former group-home staffer as the father. The man denied Rose's allegations and that's where the case seems to have ended, since paternity tests haven't been done. But a host of unresolved issues still surrounds Rose Raymond: Can a mentally retarded person "consent" to have sex? Does that person have the right to give birth if she gets pregnant?

"We don't have much of a handle here on what is a human right," says Rose's attorney, Mike Brune. "No one thinks it was forcible rape, but I don't think she consented to what was happening. She can't communicate well, she may have questionable judgment, and her memory may not be the best. But does that mean she's fair game?"

Brune also chairs the Human Rights Committee for Pinal and Gila Counties. (Such committees are made up of community volunteers intended to be watchdogs for the mentally retarded. However, many advocates say the committees are toothless and generally out of touch. For example, Brune's Human Rights Committee didn't learn of W.A. Scott's death until three weeks after it happened.)

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