Charges Dropped Against Operator Of J.D.S.' Group Home
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 16, 2004
ORLANDO, FLORIDA--Hester Strong, the former operator of an Orlando group home, will not face criminal neglect charges over the rape of a resident known in court documents and news accounts as "J.D.S."
Orange County Judge Stan Strickland said that, while Mrs. Strong, 74, should have paid more attention to what was happening in the home last year, her lack of attention did not rise to the level of criminal negligence. Strickland had the charges dropped on Tuesday.
Strong's 76-year-old husband, Phillip, is suspected in the rape of J.D.S. A judge ruled in April that he would not face charges because he is not competent to stand trial due to degenerative dementia and memory loss.
Mrs. Strong notified authorities in the spring of 2003 that she suspected J.D.S., then age 23, might be pregnant. The young woman, who has cerebral palsy, autism and mental retardation, gave birth to a baby girl in August.
When tests later matched Phillip Strong's DNA with that of the infant, police charged him with sexual battery of a "physically helpless" person and sexual battery of a "mentally defective" person. Each is a first-degree felony that carries up to a 30-year prison sentence.
Hester Strong was charged with felony negligence and her group home license was revoked.
According to the Associated Press, the guardian of J.D.S. said she was angry that neither Strong nor her husband would face charges.
"So, the state has just failed citizens with disabilities -- again," Patti Jarrell said.
J.D.S.' family has filed suit against the couple, along with a Florida Department of Children & Families employee, for violating the woman's rights.
J.D.S.' situation became national news in June of 2003 when Governor Jeb Bush attempted to have a guardian appointed for the fetus to prevent it from being aborted. His efforts were rejected by the courts because Florida law does not recognize a fetus as a person, regardless of the mother's disability status.
The guardian appointed to J.D.S. recommended that she give birth rather than have an abortion. J.D.S.' parental rights were terminated immediately after the healthy girl was born.
J.D.S. now lives in another state-licensed facility. Her daughter lives with foster parents.