CLEVELAND – A jury on Tuesday acquitted three former employees of an Ohio treatment center for troubled teens of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 17-year-old girl who suffocated and choked on her own vomit after being restrained facedown on the floor.
Cynthia King, Lazarita Menendez and Ebony Ray were also found not guilty of child endangering in the December 2008 death of Faith Finley. Menendez was also found not guilty of felonious assault and inciting to violence.
Menendez faced additional charges because she initiated the incident by taking Finley's CD player, which the disruptive 17-year-old used to calm herself, and shoved the girl's hand under her as she lay on the floor, prosecutors said.
The women, who pleaded not guilty, were fired from the Parmadale Family Services center after Finley's death. The Cuyahoga County coroner ruled Finley's death a homicide.
The type of restraint prosecutors say the women used was later banned by Gov. Ted Strickland at the recommendation of state agencies that said the technique carries a high risk of serious injury or death.
Ray, of Broadview Heights, and Menendez, of Bedford Heights, were accused of wrestling Finley to the ground on her chest and applying pressure to her back — a technique known as prone restraint — while King watched.
Assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor Maureen Clancy said King told the other two women to leave after Finley calmed down. King, of Warrensville Heights, dozed off in a nearby chair as Finley lay on a tile floor, and she checked on the girl about two hours later when another youth alerted her, the prosecutor said.
Messages seeking comment from the prosecutor's office and attorneys representing the workers were not immediately returned on Tuesday.
Cleveland-based Catholic Charities, which operates Parmadale, says the organization has cooperated with authorities and taken measures — including extensive training of staff members — to ensure that residents are kept safe.
Center director Tom Mullen said Tuesday that the workers violated the center's personnel policies and will not be rehired.
A wrongful death lawsuit filed by Finley's family last year against Parmadale, Catholic Charities and the three workers was settled last month. The lawsuit had sought at least $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, but both parties were prohibited from discussing details of the agreement.