Group Home Fire Leads to Charges Against Caregiver

Defendant Accused of Leaving Mentally Disabled Adults Alone

August 5, 1999

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., announced today that a caregiver at a Baltimore County group home for mentally disabled persons has been arrested on charges of neglect and reckless endangerment. The charges stem from a July 29, 1999 fire at 1931 Winder Road in Baltimore County in which firefighters discovered four mentally disabled persons who had been left alone and unattended. Three of the victims had to be treated at the Shock Trauma Unit of University of Maryland Hospital for possible smoke inhalation. The other was treated at Northwest Hospital. All four were released later that night.

Charged is Stephanie Wright, an employee of Emerge, Inc., the Baltimore County based organization which runs the group home. Wright is accused of endangering the life of the four victims by leaving the facility for more than an hour while she visited her boyfriend. According to the statement of charges, Wright also set out scented candles in the house before she left, which was the apparent cause of the fire.

The case is being prosecuted by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Maryland Attorney General's Office, which has the authority to investigate and prosecute patient neglect cases occurring in Medicaid funded facilities in the State of Maryland.

Initial investigation of the matter was conducted by the Baltimore County Police Department Arson Unit, which is continuing to assist in prosecution of the case.

Ms. Wright is charged with one count of neglect of a vulnerable adult, and one count of reckless endangerment.

While a statement of charges is only an accusation and all persons are presumed innocent unless proven guilty, a charge of intentional neglect and/or abuse of vulnerable adults by caregivers is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in jail and a $10,000 fine. A charge of reckless endangerment is a misdemeanor punishable a maximum sentence of five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Trial has been set in Baltimore County District Court in Catonsville for December 9, 1999.

For Further Information Contact:
Frank Mann
Special Assistant to the Attorney General
(410) 576-6357