Former guards, nurse at boot camp charged in boy's death

Thursday, November 30, 2006

PENSACOLA, Fla. -- The death of a teen who was roughed up by guards at a juvenile boot camp has prompted a shake-up in Florida's criminal justice system, the resignation of its top law enforcement officer and now charges against seven former guards and a nurse.

In the past 11 months, news stations have repeatedly aired a surveillance video showing the guards beating and kicking 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson during a 30-minute altercation at the Bay County sheriff's camp in Panama City on Jan. 5. The nurse is seen doing nothing to stop the scene.

Guards said Anderson was uncooperative and had refused to participate during group exercises. The teen collapsed in the camp's exercise yard and died at a hospital the next day.

The nurse and seven guards were charged with aggravated manslaughter Tuesday. Bond for each of the former camp employees was set at $25,000. The nurse, Kristin Anne Schmidt, posted bond Wednesday afternoon following a night in jail. The seven guards posted bond Tuesday shortly after their arrests.

"Today is a good day for me. I'm finally getting justice for my baby," said Gina Jones, Anderson's mother.

An arraignment was scheduled for mid-January and the defendants will be tried together. All face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of the first-degree felony.

Schmidt's attorney, Jim Appleman, told The News Herald of Panama City that his client was not able to turn herself in until about 11 p.m. Tuesday because she was fulfilling obligations to a hospice patient.

The death prompted the state to dismantle its military-style detention system for young offenders, sparked protests at the state Capitol and prompted the resignation of Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief Guy Tunnell, who started Bay County's boot camp when he was sheriff there.

Gov. Jeb Bush signed a bill in May to replace Florida's boot camps with programs that offer job training and counseling and prohibit physical discipline.

Dr. Vernard Adams, the medical examiner for Hillsborough County, ruled the guards' hands blocked the boy's mouth, and the "forced inhalation of ammonia fumes" caused his vocal cords to spasm.

The guards had said in an incident report that they used ammonia capsules five times to gain cooperation from the boy who was in custody for a probation violation for trespassing at a school.

The guards charged are Charles Helms Jr., 50, Henry Dickens, 50, Charles Enfinger, 33, Patrick Garrett, 30, Raymond Hauck, 48, Henry McFadden Jr., 33, and Joseph Walsh II, 35.

"To a degree, it is a relief to have the charge filed because that other shoe has finally dropped," said attorney Waylon Graham, who represents Helms Jr. "This wasn't a surprise to anybody. Now we can go forward."

Jonathan Dingus, who represents McFadden, said he and his client were ready to begin their defense.

Garrett said through his lawyer, Bob Sombathy, that he was disappointed that charges were filed. "He's relieved that the facts in his case will finally come out," Sombathy said.

Bob Pell, an attorney who represents Walsh, said he learned of the decision to charge his client from The Associated Press.

"I didn't anticipate it. I was hoping cooler heads would prevail," he said.

An initial autopsy found Anderson died of natural complications of sickle cell trait, a usually benign blood disorder. But after an uproar and cries of a cover-up, a second autopsy was conducted by another medical examiner, and it concluded Anderson suffocated because of the actions of the guards.

Still pending is the family's wrongful death lawsuit against the state Department of Juvenile Justice, which oversaw the boot camp system, the Bay County Sheriff's Office and the seven guards. They are seeking more than $40 million in damages.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: