Lawsuit Filed in Wrongful Death of Teen in Kentucky Juvenile Detention

Joshua Brown

In a systematic breakdown, 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen was left in a cold detention cell to die.

All while the guards that were suppose to be checking on her instead ate her breakfast.

McMillen was in custody regarding a domestic altercation with family. She died after just 17 hours in custody.

Now, the family is filing a lawsuit in excess of $75,000 against the Lincoln Village Juvenile Detention Center and all employees involved in the supervision of McMillen.

So here is what we know:

On January 10, 2016 McMillen was booked at the detention center around 6:00 AM, and eventually put in an Aikido restraint.

From 6:22 AM to 3:44 PM she was left in an isolated cell with no bed mattress. Mike Wynn, the Public Information Officer for the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, noted that mattresses are not provided for inmates during the day.

She was soon allowed to eat and shower.

11:00 PM McMillen was witnessed by jail guard Reginald Windham gasping for air, coughing and making uncontrollable movements during a seizure. Windham watched for 18 seconds then walked away.

On January 11, 2016 at 6:30 AM McMillen was offered breakfast by guards while in her cell; she never responded to the offer. So the guards ate her breakfast.

At 8:30 AM guards offered McMillen a snack, and she still did not respond.

At 9:55 AM guards found McMillen dead in her cell.

The suit which can be read here notes that the Lincoln Village Juvenile Detention Center participated in negligent hiring, negligent training, and negligent supervision, which all resulted in the wrongful death of McMillen.

Liz Ryan, a juvenile justice consultant, and founder of the advocacy group Campaign for Youth Justice said:

“When McMillen didn’t respond to breakfast, staffers should have immediately investigated. It’s common sense. It’s a reasonable expectation. Somebody should have gone in to check to make sure that she’s okay.”

Attorney and juvenile justice expert Michele Deitch says:

“It is not normal, not acceptable, for a kid to not be eating, not engaging, not responsive, and that should trigger alarms. It seems like there were so many missed opportunities and missed signals that something wasn’t right here.”

Deitch went on to say,

“Juvenile detention is not designed to be punitive, since it’s for youths who are pre-trial, and have not been convicted. Youth in detention require more safeguards than adults.”

Reginald Windham was placed on paid administrative leave as a result of the internal investigation. The investigation revealed that 10 year veteran Windham failed to check on McMillen every 15 minutes, which happens to be a requirement for those in isolation at the detention center in Elizabethtown.

The internal investigation concluded that, “Had staff conducted their checks as required, they might have detected a medical issue with her and provided the proper medical assistance that may have prevented her death.”

In fact, according to a Department of Juvenile Justice internal report, Windham admitted to the failed bed checks, saying,

“He agrees if he had done his bed checks and went into the cell to do the wellness check, he may have detected her condition early enough to have gotten her some medical attention.”

The lawsuit claims employees failed to check on McMillen 64 times.
In March, Windham and Victor Holt were indicted by a Hardin County grand jury on one charge each of second-degree official misconduct, for falsifying room check logs at Lincoln Village. Both pleaded not guilty.

Windham and Holt are among six employees who state investigators say falsified logs, and among four who were terminated.

Bob Hayter, the Commissioner of the Kentucky Juvenile Justice Department, and youth worker Chris Johnson were also fired. Windham, Holt, and Johnson were all criminally charged for official misconduct.


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