Police: Woman Died As One Staff Shopped, But Others Watched Her
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 28, 2005
HAMDEN, CONNECTICUT--This past July, Rosemary Hicock went on what was supposed to be a Special Olympics outing with fellow residents of Southbury Training School, a state-run institution that houses 580 people with intellectual disabilities.
But the activity allegedly turned into a shopping spree for her driver and caregiver, Kimberly Rivnack, and turned fatal for 52-year-old Hicock.
According to police investigators, the two vans carrying Hicock and residents and Southbury staff stopped at several stores in Hamden, including a T.J. Maxx.
Rivnack went inside the store after leaving Hicock by herself in the hot van with a McDonald's hamburger.
Hicock was not supposed to eat food without it first being cut up.
She also was not supposed to be left alone.
After Rivnack was in the store for "a long time", Hicock apparently got hungry and started eating the burger.
Two staff members in the second van then saw Hicock flailing about in the first van, trying to get their attention as she choked on her food.
However, instead of trying to rescue Hicock or calling 9-1-1, Evelyn Mensah and Barbara Williams ran into the store to get Rivnack, police told the Hartford Courant.
By the time they returned, it was too late to revive Hicock.
Investigators said the three initially lied to them, telling them they were on the move when Hicock started choking and that they pulled into the parking lot to rescue her.
But Mensah reportedly broke the pact the three had made to "stick to the story", and chose to tell police a different version.
Last week, Rivnack, 40, and Williams, 46, were arrested and charged with manslaughter.
On Monday of this week, Mensah, 35, was arrested on one charge of reckless endangerment.
The Department of Mental Retardation fired the workers in September. All three have filed grievances with the state Office of Labor Relations.
According to the Courant, the death raises issues about Connecticut's decision to keep Southbury open rather than moving the residents to smaller community settings. The institution is currently under a 10-year-old federal court order to improve conditions for its residents.
A federal judge still has not ruled on a suit filed on behalf of Southbury residents, which was filed in 1991 and went to trial in 1999.
"Mentally Retarded Woman Choked As State Worker Shopped" (Hartford Courant)
"DMR Fatality Brings Another Arrest" (Hartford Courant)