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Former employees of Georgia juvenile detention center indicted in connection with teen’s death

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Five former employees of the Elbert Shaw Regional Youth Detention Center in Dalton, Georgia, have been indicted following the tragic death of 16-year-old Alexis Sluder in August 2022 while in custody.

The indictments were announced by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on Friday, following a grand jury decision in Whitfield County.

The individuals facing charges include the former director, David McKinney, a 53-year-old resident of Rome, and former nurse Monica Hedrick, a 62-year-old resident of Ringgold. Both McKinney and Hedrick are charged with one count of second-degree cruelty to children.

Additionally, three former guards, 35-year-old Maveis Brooks of Calhoun, 62-year-old Russell Ballard of Chatsworth, and 45-year-old Rebecka Phillips, also of Chatsworth, are accused of depriving Sluder of necessary medical care by failing to promptly seek emergency medical assistance. These guards face charges of two counts of first-degree cruelty to children and one count of second-degree cruelty to children.

Whitfield County Coroner Greg Bates revealed that Sluder had spent less than 24 hours at the detention center before her tragic demise. Initially, the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice attributed her death to an adverse reaction to an “illegal substance she ingested” prior to her arrival at the facility.

The indictments have prompted the termination of employment for the three guards, who were dismissed on the same day they were indicted. McKinney had been terminated in February, while Hedrick, a contract worker with Augusta University, was previously dismissed.

Despite the indictments, online records do not indicate that any of the accused have been booked into the Whitfield County jail. Attempts to contact them were unsuccessful as of the latest reports.

A lawyer representing Hedrick’s family expressed support for the indictment, stating, “Alexis deserved better.”

Last week, friends and family of Alexis Sluder marked the one-year anniversary of her passing. Sluder, a student at Gilmer High School, was known for her involvement in softball and beauty pageants, as per an online obituary.

The Department of Juvenile Justice reiterated its commitment to the safety and well-being of individuals under its care, expressing condolences to the deceased’s family.

The investigation received cooperation from the Dalton Police Department and the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office, with prosecution handled by the Whitfield County District Attorney’s office. The case serves as a stark reminder of the importance of accountability and transparency in juvenile detention facilities.

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