By Spencer Hunt and Debra Jasper
The Cincinnati Enquirer
One man wanders in the winter cold in his underwear. Another swelters alone in a hot apartment. A third eats a sandwich he shouldn't have been given. A fourth gets in a tub he shouldn't have been in. An Enquirer investigation found a dozen examples of questionable deaths — and there could be more.
"I know he's going to heaven, because he
was a kid inside."
- Carl Binion, about his brother, Keith Allen Binion, who died inside a sweltering, Trumbull County apartment on Aug. 2.
Here are their stories:
Gathering the facts
Basic facts showing how and why mentally retarded people die in Ohio are often so hard to find that even families sometimes go begging for information.
While reports on deaths within the state's system for the mentally retarded are required by law, no one outside a select circle of bureaucrats, court officials and advocacy groups can look at them all.
Families just recently have been allowed to view death reports of loved ones. But even then, information is spotty or missing entirely.
The Enquirer was able to name 12 people who died under questionable circumstances by cross-checking public state and county death and police records with inspection and license reports of facilities. Other deaths were found through interviews with advocacy groups.
The 12 represent less than 1 percent of the 2,249 people with mental retardation who died from 1998 through 2001. Yet the true number of people who died in similar circumstances may be much higher.
The Department of Mental Retardation's medical director, Dr. Andrew Eddy, says that as many as 80 to 120 deaths each year — more than one in seven — could be avoided.
Raymond V. Stahl
Choked to death
Arthur Roy Waggoner
CPR wasn't done
Kathleen Ann Kaiser
Struggled to breathe
Keith Allen Binion
Died in the heat
Froze to death
Fell down stairs
Robert Lee McCoy
Collapsed in hallway
Michael Joseph Kelly
Pinned down on mat
Drowned in tub
Mark Edson Leaseburge
A day's labored breathing
Filthy, thirsty, she died of indifference