E N Q U I R E R   S P E C I A L   I N V E S T I G A T I O N
Twelve who died

By Spencer Hunt and Debra Jasper
The Cincinnati Enquirer

"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.

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.

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.

Here are their stories:

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

Roy Harrison
Froze to death

LuAnn Gale
Fell down stairs

Robert Lee McCoy
Collapsed in hallway

Michael Joseph Kelly
Pinned down on mat

Jason Standafer
Drowned in tub

Mark McCullough
Hanged himself

Mark Edson Leaseburge
A day's labored breathing

Denise Tavner
Filthy, thirsty, she died of indifference

Inside the Report
Failing the fragile
Ohio is supposed to care for 63,000 people with mental retardation but the system is failing.

Twelve who died
Our investigation found a dozen questionable deaths and there could be more.

Unequal system
The kind of care mentally retarded people get depends largely on where they live.

Who is accountable?
The agencies and departments charged with enforcing minimum standards of care.

Slow reform
The agencies and departments charged with enforcing minimum standards of care.

Take control
How to make sure a person with mental retardation is well cared for and safe.

Photographer's album
A visual journey into the lives of Ohio's mentally retarded.

Ohio's Secret Shame

Part 1Part 2Part 3