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Feb 6, 2014 5:09 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

UPDATE: Fourth Health Aide Charged With Mistreating Patients Pleads Not Guilty; Posts $10,000 Bail

Feb 8, 2014 7:42 AM

UPDATE: Friday, 5:20 p.m.

During the altercation one of the disabled clients grabbed the other by the neck, pushed him and his wheelchair over then "violently" stepped on his head and neck after being egged on by Ms. McHenry, according to a felony complaint filed by the Southampton Town Police with the Southampton Town Justice Court.

Altercations are common, although not always to this extent, within the IGHL home in question, according to a sworn written statement by Mr. McDonald, who video taped the incident with his phone in order to share it with a friend before deleting it.

UPDATE: Friday, 12:35 p.m.

Ms. Vanni, the fourth employee accused of endangering the welfare of two developmentally disabled men at an IGHL home in Southampton Town, entered a not guilty plea during her arraignment Friday morning before Judge Barbara Wilson.

Bail was set at $10,000, which Ms. Vanni posted and was later released.

She is due back in court on Thursday, March 6.


Three direct care workers at an assisted living facility in Southampton Town were arraigned on felony charges Thursday afternoon for allegedly encouraging two developmentally disabled individuals under their care to fight each other, according to Southampton Town Police.

And a fourth care worker is now in police custody awaiting arraignment.

Erin McHenry, 28, of Brookhaven, Justin McDonald, 19, of Lindenhurst, Stephen Komara, 58, of East Moriches, and Rosemary Vanni, 44, of Eastport were arrested by Town Police and each charged with two counts of first-degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person, a felony.

The four employees were working at Independent Group Home Living Program facility somewhere in Southampton Town—police did not immediately disclose exactly where the incident took place—and arrested after an investigation. That investigation was initiated by a call placed to the New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs Vulnerable Persons Central Register Hotline on November 13.

The call alleged that the four employees watched and encouraged a developmentally disabled person under their care to attack another patient sometime between late October and early November of last year. In the incident, one intellectually disabled client, at the alleged urging of the employees, pushed over another patient who was in a wheelchair, knocking him to the ground, and then engaged him in a physical fight, Southampton Town Police Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa said on Thursday afternoon.

Both clients are men in their 50s and have the mental capacity of an average 3- to 5-year-old, according to Det. Sgt. Costa. Neither reported injuries after the incident.

After the call, Town Police opened an investigation, in conjunction with the Justice Center, to look into the matter. Police obtained video footage of the incident recorded on a cellphone in which all four individuals can be seen or heard laughing during the fight, according to a press release from the Justice Center.

Mr. McDonald was arrested on January 12, Ms. Vanni was arrested on January 13, Ms. McHenry was arrested on January 16, and Mr. Komara was arrested January 17, Det. Sgt. Costa said. All four were arrested at Town Police headquarters on Old Riverhead Road in Hampton Bays.

Det. Sgt. Costa explained that they were not immediately arraigned because a date had to be set for a special prosecutor from Albany to appear in court on behalf of the Justice Center.

Ms. McHenry, Mr. McDonald and Mr. Komara were arraigned Thursday afternoon and then remanded to the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside, each on $10,000 bail. Ms. Vanni did not appear in court, but she was arrested at 3:20 p.m. at her home in Eastport on a bench warrant and she will be held overnight for arraignment on Friday in Town Justice Court, Det. Sgt. Costa said.

All four were terminated from their positions with the Independent Group Home Living Program immediately following an internal investigation, Det. Sgt. Costa said.

Independent Group Home Living Program is based in Manorville and has homes and facilities throughout the East End that provide residential and daytime care to those with developmental disabilities. It is not clear what type of facility the incident occurred at.

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Please say this ain't so! Investigative journalists out there: 1. How does IGHLP screen potential applicants? 2. How does IGHLP supervise their employees? 3. How does IGHLP get funded? I assume by tax dollars. 3. How does the State supervise IGHLP and re-credential IGHLP? The events presented in this report are extremely troubling to me. I am willing to provide my services at no cost as an independent medical expert with years of investigational experience to any interested parties in ...more
By allenfein (72), Southampton on Feb 6, 14 8:26 PM
unless the info you requested is on twitter or facebook, don't expect a writer to actually pick up a phone and do research. Journalism in general died many moons ago.
By politcal pawn (121), Flanders on Feb 6, 14 8:43 PM
1 member liked this comment
Four people encouraged this? Not one had the decency to stop it, or prevent it? Unreal.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Feb 6, 14 10:20 PM
2 members liked this comment
I am absolutely sickened by what these disgusting, lowlife "caregivers" are accused of. It always seems that there awful things that happen in any type of group home, and those are only the ones that we HEAR about. That's what happens when profits rule over all else. Huge insurance payments, low paid, and mostly uneducated employees will always equal huge profits. Too much BS in what should be a safe and responsible home for your loved ones.
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on Feb 6, 14 11:18 PM
These four low lifes should be placed in a Gladiator pit with clubs and maces and fight to a slow death. The victor can do a life sentence.
By Cavemansback (1), Riverhead on Feb 7, 14 8:29 AM
There should be OVERSIGHT in each home, 1 or 2 who are more qualified than the basic staff, and one of whom is always there. This is a no brainer. There should be a registry for dev. disabled abuse; although likely this will follow them for the rest of their lives. Good for you Doc, for the offer....that's alot of work. Someone offering a solution instead of partisan rhetoric (marlinspike) is a rare thing these days.
By ebonybay (6), Hampton Bays on Feb 7, 14 11:57 AM
1 member liked this comment
Cudos to Dr. Fein who wants to help with the problem rather than be part of the problem. Thanks you for stepping up to address this problem. Not many doctors out here would even comment not to mention volunteer services. God Bless.
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Feb 7, 14 6:14 PM
1 member liked this comment