Teen Vanished From "Safe" Facility
December 22, 2003
MILTON, FLORIDA--When a judge ordered young Franklin Weekley to be admitted to Sunland Center -- an institution housing nearly 350 people with developmental disabilities -- his parents felt confident their son would be okay. After all, authorities had decided that the teenager needed the kind of close supervision such a facility could provide.
"They said it's a secure facility," said his father, Eddie Weekley. "They said my son would be safe there."
On the evening of December 5, 2002, a nervous Franklin called home, but his father was not available to speak to him. When his father called back an hour or two later, Sunland employees refused to allow him to speak to Franklin. The next morning, institution officials reported the teen missing. They said he simply walked away.
A year later, nobody knows where Franklin is.
Franklin's disappearance could pressure state officials to close facilities such as Sunland Center, the Miami Herald suggested in a story Sunday.
"Years ago, institutions were recommended by physicians and clergy as the only option for children with developmental disabilities," said John C. Hall, director of The Arc of Florida. "But the very culture that exists in institutions leads to abuse, neglect and inhumane conditions."
"Year later, questions echo over lost teen" (Miami Herald)