Two Kentucky employees fired over death of teen in detention

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 09, 2016 4:20 PM

By Steve Bittenbender

LOUISVILLE, Ky (Reuters) - The head of Kentucky's juvenile justice system and another state employee have been fired as a result of an ongoing investigation into the death of a 16-year-old black girl at a juvenile detention facility, a state spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

Bob Hayter was removed from his position overseeing the juvenile justice system late last week, Lisa Lamb, a justice cabinet spokeswoman, said in a statement. She did not say why he was fired.

Hayter's departure came after the state dismissed an unnamed employee previously suspended for failing to conduct routine bed checks on the girl, Gynnya McMillen, who was found unresponsive on Jan. 11 at the Lincoln Village Juvenile Detention Center.

She had just spent her first night at the facility located in Elizabethtown, about 45 miles south of Louisville. Police in Shelbyville, located 30 miles east of Louisville, arrested the teen the day before after an altercation at her mother's house.

While trying to conduct a body search during McMillen's processing, guards at the center allegedly used a martial arts maneuver to restrain her as they removed her sweatshirt, according to the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, a non-profit media organization focused on protecting vulnerable citizens.

It was not clear whether the unnamed employee was involved in the reported restraint maneuver or whether McMillen was injured during the alleged incident.

Lamb said cabinet officials, including Justice Secretary John Tilley, had not been made aware that the unnamed employee had prior disciplinary actions against him.

"While these disciplinary actions were not connected to the death, they reveal a pattern of unacceptable behavior for someone who supervises youth," Lamb said in a statement.

Tilley, who was appointed by newly elected Gov. Matt Bevin in December, has called on his staff to communicate fully and openly.

Both the Kentucky State Police and the cabinet's internal investigators have nearly completed their work into the case, Lamb added.

However, the final autopsy to determine the cause of McMillen's death may take up to 12 weeks as medical examiners and the Mayo Clinic conduct toxicology and genetic tests, Hardin County Deputy Coroner Shana Norton said Monday.

(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Andrew Hay)