Saturday, October 13, 2007

BRENDAN BLUM: Boy found dead at Draper group home

June 30, 2007

The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY -- A southern California boy died at a group home in Draper, apparently in his sleep.

The 14-year-old boy awoke early Thursday complaining of stomach and bowel problems, was placed in a separate room from other kids and found dead the next morning, said Carol Sisco, spokeswoman for Utah Department of Human Services.

"We are interviewing everyone involved who was in the unit at the time," Draper police Sgt. Gerald Allred said.

Allred and other police officials were unavailable Friday to comment on whether an autopsy had revealed a cause of death for the boy, who entered the group home in February. His name was not released.

The boy died of a "medical condition," Trina Packard, executive director of the Youth Care & Pine Ridge Academy, said in a statement issued Friday. Packard didn't specify the medical condition or say why she was certain he died of it, and she didn't return a message left by The Associated Press.

"We are extremely saddened" by the boy's death, she said, pledging to cooperate with authorities. "We are providing therapeutic services to the boy's family, as well as counseling services for our own staff and students."

The state division that licenses the group home will inspect the facility after police are finished, Sisco said.

Among things inspectors will look at is whether the group home had adequate staff on duty, she said.

The group home is operated by Cerritos, Calif-based Aspen Education Group, a division of CRC Health Group that runs boarding schools, outdoor education programs, weight-loss camps and "weight-loss residential high schools," according to its Web site.

Corporate officials didn't return telephone and e-mail messages left Friday by the AP.

"It sounds like he woke in the night and was having diarrhea and vomiting," Sisco said. "They took him into a separate room, and within a few minutes he went asleep. They checked on him a couple of times, but he was dead by the morning."

The group home takes troubled children 11 to 17 years old sent voluntarily by their parents, Sisco said.

It does not take any court-assigned children, she said.

"The program notified us (of the death) within 24 hours as they are required to do. We'll be looking at reports from the program, law enforcement, the medical examiner and then going out and checking the program physically to see if there is anything they could have done differently," Sisco said.