Saturday, January 29, 2011

Disabled Illinois man beaten to death in group home, authorities say

From the Chicago Tribune:

Just last year Paul McCann (pictured) was contemplating moving from his group home in Charleston to one in Crest Hill to be closer to his family in the south suburbs, his sister said.

But even after spending a weekend at a residency facility blocks away from his elderly mother, McCann decided he wanted to stay downstate, where he knew more people and enjoyed the scenery.

"He said… 'I want to be with my friends in Charleston,'" said Kathy Slovick, McCann's older sister. "He put some thought into that."

Now McCann's family is struggling to understand what could have led to his tragic death at Graywood Foundation, a facility he called home.

McCann, who grew up in Joliet, was 42 and mentally and developmentally disabled. His death is the second in less than three years where there have been allegations of an attack by employees at the group home, officials said.

"There were many kind people that loved and cared for Paul and are very sad by this," Slovick said. "This is very painful because it is so sudden. … He was taken from us."

Coles County State's Attorney Steve Ferguson could not be reached for comment. According to reports, he said two employees at the group home attacked McCann on Jan. 19 after they accused him of stealing food.

After the incident, McCann was hospitalized. He was interviewed and identified his attackers, authorities said.

According to Charleston police, McCann died four days after the attack at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in Mattoon. An autopsy showed McCann suffered internal bleeding and ruled his death a homicide.

Keyun D. Newble, 25, and Marquis A. Harmon, 22, have both been charged with first-degree murder, authorities said. Newble is a resident of East St. Louis and Harmon is an Eastern Illinois University student from Danville.

In news reports, officials from Graywood called McCann's death a tragedy and said the incident is being investigated by the Illinois Department of Human Services' office of inspector general.

McCann's death shocked and devastated his family. His mother, Lois McCann, lives in an assisted-living home in Joliet, and his sister lives in Glen Ellyn.

"My mother and I have talked about how sad it is, not just for our family, but for the families of those (arrested) men as well. We know they must be hurting, too," Slovick said.

McCann attended public schools in Joliet, she said. Despite his disability, he was inquisitive, sensitive and curious. He had a zest for life, Slovick said.

"My brother was a very kind, gentle, sensitive person," she said. "He was very sweet and he'd do whatever you asked him to do. He had an unusual way of expressing himself, but he was very poetic."

For much of his life, McCann's parents' cared for him. But when they became elderly, McCann went to live in a group home in DuPage County, Slovick said.

Four years ago he moved to Charleston because the group home there was a good fit for him, Slovick said.

"We only regretted that it was so far away," she said.

For the first couple of years, McCann's parents would drive to Charleston to visit, staying there a week at a time, Slovick said. And after their father died, Slovick and her mother would make frequent trips downstate to take McCann shopping, to the movies, to dinner and to visit museums and landmarks.

"My mother really worried about Paul, and she called him every day and they'd talk," Slovick said. "He'd ask her about her day and he'd tell her any news he had, or what they had for dinner. They spoke every single day."

Slovick said the family has been remembering her brother's life and spirit in order to cope with the sadness.

"When you sit and think, it really hits you," Slovick said. "I didn't expect him to go so soon."