Sunday, January 31, 2010

Colorado officials look into abuse, neglect of man with Down syndrome

From The Pueblo Chieftain:

The possible abuse and neglect of a 46-year-old man with Down syndrome is being investigated after he was found to weigh only 60 pounds discovered to be suffering from severe bed sores and a broken femur.

The Pueblo County Sheriff's Office is now investigating the case concerning Karl Martinez, who has been recovering in a local hospital since November.

The ARC of Pueblo was granted emergency guardianship at the time and is now Martinez's legal guardian.

"He was withdrawn, was so malnourished and the bed sores were horrific," said Stephanie Garcia, executive director of the ARC. "I'm happy to report he's gained 20 pounds."

Martinez had been living with a relative on Pueblo's East Side when neighbors reported suspicious activity at the home on Nov. 5. Neighbors called 911 after they saw Martinez's relative carrying "what appeared to be a limp body to a vehicle," according to court documents obtained by The Pueblo Chieftain.

The body was first believed to be a dead dog, Garcia said, but was actually Martinez. Sheriff's deputies didn't respond because they were on other calls, the document said.

The court documents included a letter by Dr. Constance Wehling, who treated Martinez.

"This is truthfully the most severe case of neglect that I have encountered in 30 years of my medical practice, and I would encourage the legal system of this county to take an active role in giving him respect of life," Wehling wrote.

While Martinez is improving, Garcia said she's disappointed with the lack of progress in the case.

"I am disappointed, and I think what triggered my anger was the horrible reports of the animal abuse up north and how quickly people were brought to justice, and I just want that for Karl. I want Karl's offenders brought to justice," she said.

Garcia was referring to the recent incident in Park County, where 100 sled dogs were allegedly abused and malnourished and their owners arrested and charged.

Sheriff Kirk Taylor said investigative efforts had been dedicated to the December robbery-homicide of Robert Piserchio, which has netted arrests of seven suspects in Colorado Springs.

More resources have recently been dedicated to Martinez's case.

"The detective working with this has been tied up on the homicide," Taylor said in a recent interview. "No. 1: the stronger (Martinez) gets, the better witness he's going to be. He was only able to answer 'yes' or 'no' to questions."

"Carl's been saying the same thing from day one," about his alleged abuse, Garcia said. "And I told Kirk (that) Karl's voice is not being heard. As long as I'm around I'm going to jump up and down and scream until Karl's being paid attention to."

The Pueblo County Department of Social Services has had contact with Martinez dating back to at least 2007. Garcia said DSS knew of abuse against Martinez in 2007 after he collapsed at his home and was hospitalized for malnourishment.

Jose Mondragon, DSS director, said in a recent interview he couldn't talk about the case due to client confidentiality.

"(DSS) had gone out four times before because the neighbors were called and had reported concerns of Karl's well-being," Garcia said.

Taylor said DSS has not been cooperative or forthcoming with the investigation.

Capt. John McClure of the investigation unit at the sheriff's office said the district attorney's office had reviewed the case and is awaiting more medical information before reaching a conclusion on whether charges will be filed.

"The DA has reviewed the case, and they need more specifics," McClure said.