JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) –- A multimillion-dollar operation under state contract was supposed to be taking care of people with special needs. Instead, its employees are accused of fatally beating two residents and several incidents of abuse.
CBS 2’s Dave Savini investigates why action was not taken sooner to protect those who could not protect themselves.
Forty-two-year-old Paul McCann suffered a brutal beating in January. The man called a gentle giant, who functioned at the level of a 6-year-old, was punched, kicked, and struck with a frying pan inside his group home for reportedly taking a cookie.
“I cannot believe that this terrible, terrible thing happened to Paul,” his mother, Lois McCann, says.
She took care of her son for as long as she could in her Joliet home. Then she put her trust in Graywood Foundation, a state-licensed group home in downstate Charleston. Two staff members from the facility have been charged in the brutal beating that led to his death.
Kathy Slovick, Paul McCann’s sister, says she will never forget seeing his body covered in bruises.
“He was treated not like a human being,” she said. “He was treated like a punching bag.”
McCann was not the only victim at Graywood Foundation. State records obtained by CBS 2, which date back to 2003, reveal 33 cases of Graywood staff abusing residents. Those cases included sexual abuse, physical battery and alleged coercion of residents to attack each other.
Even worse, in 2008, a resident named Dustin Higgins was murdered by staff. That death prompted an internal memo from the Illinois Department of Human Services Inspector General. The memo warned that Graywood residents were at risk amid an increase of serious allegations of abuse and neglect.
Lois McCann wants to know how the facility was allowed to continue operating with all of these findings.
“All those cases were founded, substantiated, and yet my son is dead because (DHS) did nothing about it,” she said.
State records also reveal regulators knew Graywood’s substantiated abuse rate was double the state average, yet DHS failed to close it down.
“The Department of Human Services failed,” Lois McCann said.
Attorney Shawn Collins, who represents McCann, says state officials failed to listen to their own inspectors while continuing to fund Graywood’s operation with millions of tax dollars.
“You wonder — what is the state doing?” said Collins. “It has literally created this place, allowed it to exist, licensed it, financed it, investigated it, knows it’s run atrociously and abusively and yet doesn’t shut it down.”
In a statement, DHS says the agency has now revoked Graywood’s multimillion-dollar state contract and is in the process of shutting down the operation.
Graywood’s owner, Augustine Oruwari, did not return calls to CBS 2.
Now a state lawmaker is calling for a criminal investigation into Graywood. He also is now working on legislation to protect folks who live in these types of facilities.
If Lois McCann finds any solace, it’s in this thought: “I know Paul is now in God’s kingdom. He’s happy now and he won’t be hurt anymore.”