Group Home Worker Charged In Resident’s Drowning

BRAHAM, Minn. (WCCO) — A group home worker has been charged with manslaughter after a resident drowned after the employee allegedly left him alone in a bathtub.

Devra Cheyrle Stiles, 62, of Pine City, Minn. has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in the death of 56-year-old Gerald Edward Hyska at a state-run group home in Braham, Minn.

According to the criminal complaint, Stiles was giving Hyska, who was in the group home because of spastic quadriplegia and blindness, a bath on the night of Aug. 28 when she left the bathroom to answer the phone.

When she returned, Hyska was underwater. Stiles told authorities she pulled Hyska from the bathtub and called 911 while administering CPR.

When an officer from the Braham Police Department arrived, he saw Stiles giving Hyska chest compressions on his back. The officer flipped him over and took over CPR until paramedics arrived. They transported Hyska to Cambridge Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

According to court papers, Stiles told police that she was only on the phone for one to two minutes before returning to the bathroom to find Hyska underwater. But according to phone records, Stiles was on the phone for more than six minutes.

Also, according to phone records, Stiles called authorities 31 minutes after hanging up from the first phone call.

The supervisor of the group home told investigators that Hyska’s risk management plan stated that Hyska was to “never be left alone during bathing procedures and is to be assisted by staff 24 hours a day.”

If convicted, Stiles faces up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

The Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, released the following statement about the incident:

“Our hearts go out to the family of the victim. The Department of Human Services is currently reviewing its policies and procedures to make certain we are doing everything we can to assure all in our care are safe.

“The employee involved in the case is no longer with the Department of Human Services effective Sept. 28, 2011. Due to state law that protects employee privacy, we are unable to say more about her employment at this time. We are working with the Isanti County Attorney’s office and the Department of Public Safety in this tragic case.”

  • just sayin

    Compressions on his back!?!?

    How can this woman even qualify for that kind of job? Ridiculous!!!!!

  • MAJ

    Star Tribune had an article on this. I read it and had compassion for this woman. She did not have anyone else on staff when she left to answer the phone. I think they are being too hard on her. Taking care of people who cannot take care of themselves is a hard and sometimes thankless job. A member of my family (15 yrs. old and in a coma from an accident was fed food that went into his lungs and he died. The nurse did not lose her job.) He lost two ways – a person went thru a stop sign and hit him and a nurse made of fatal mistake.

  • Ellen

    Quite often places are under-staffed, with one person being in charge of 6-12
    residents at a time. I know of one place that has 18 residents and only
    ONE PERSON on the overnight shift. In a situation like this the employee
    should have ignored the phone.

  • Carin

    Why was the phone more important than taking care of the patient? I have been a RN and now a Nurse Practitioner for over 20 years and I started as a nurses aide. Let the phone ring, focus on the patient. People call back.

  • Nancy Aleshire

    Were there cameras present in this group home? If there were they would show what really happened. My developmentally disabled, schizophrenic son was killed as a result of being restrained by staff in a DHS run workplace. There were no cameras in the facility and the individuals involved lied to police and nothing was done. I am trying to push for legislation mandating cameras in these facilities, as well as group homes and nursing homes, but the state legislature will not be in session until next year. I agree the group home was understaffed, she should have let the phone ring while she was giving Mr. Hyska a bath–don’t they have answering machines?

  • mary

    I don’t understand why families put loved ones in group homes.My aunt was severely handicapped and my grandparents took care of her their whole life.I’ve heard nothing but bad things about group homes over the years.Families need to care for their loved ones period.

  • Pavel

    To Nancy: Do you have any idea what your proposal would cost? Millions of dollars is the answer! These people should never have been moved to group homes in the first place. In nearly every case they don’t fit into a social situation and need medical care and staff at all times.

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