Did state know about abuse of disabled man found dead in Belleville?

News-DemocratApril 5, 2014 

St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly, in a 2012 file photo.


State investigators twice received reports that Billy Ray Young was being neglected or abused before Young was found dead, curled in a fetal position and weighing 60 pounds, inside a Belleville home in March.

Young, 52, was blind, mentally and physically disabled. He lived with his brother and sister-in-law, Richard and Elizabeth Young since about 2006. Richard and Elizabeth Young were charged with criminal neglect of a disabled person last month in connection with Billy Ray Young's death.

The hotline calls regarding Billy Ray Young came in July 2007 and Aug. 14, 2008, when the Youngs lived on Williams Street in Decatur.

The investigators found the allegations were groundless or had no basis in fact.

"I don't understand how they investigated," said Thomas Kennedy III, an attorney who represents the disabled. "Clearly, someone was trying to protect this man. They were concerned about him enough to call not once, but twice."

The reason for this isn't known.

The Illinois Department of Human Services Office of the Inspector General, which managed the Adults with Disabilities Project until July 1, declined to release the investigations requested under the Freedom of Information Act, stating "unsubstantiated and unfounded investigative reports may not be disclosed."

The Illinois Department on Aging, which took over the program in July 1, also denied the request, because "the closed case records were not transferred to the department as part of the implementation efforts."

"That's unbelievable," Kennedy said. "It's hard to put a complaint into the proper context without knowing the history, whether there were other complaints or not."

The Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Human Services retains the files where a final report had been submitted but open were transferred to the Department on Aging, said state government spokesman Mike Claffey.

"In order to to address potential patterns, the Office of the Inspector General also provided the Department on Aging with an electronic summary of all historical data regarding its closed cases," Claffey said. " ... When necessary, the Department on Aging and its provider agencies may submit a written request to the Office of the Inspector General to search for additional information about a closed case."

"I think the records should be transferred and I will work to make that happen. If there needs to be a statute change for some reason, I will introduce it, although it seems to be common sense to have access to the records by investigatigators," said Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, who heads the Department of Human Services Appropriations Committee.

In 2010, the DHS-OIG came under fire after the Belleville News-Democrat reported the agency failed to investigate the deaths of 53 disabled adults after complaints they were being abused or neglected came into the hotline. The department closed their cases without investigation because "the dead were ineligible for services."

Legislators disbanded the program and transferred responsibility for investigating complaints of abuse and neglect of disabled adults who lived in private homes to the Department on Aging.

After Billy Ray Young's death, both Department on Aging and the Department of Human Services were asked whether there had been any previous complaints of abuse or neglect regarding Billy Ray Young.

The departments said there had been no previous complaints.

A review of documents obtained by the BND in 2010 revealed the DHS-OIG had received two complaints regarding Billy Ray Young.

Billy Ray Young lived with his mother in Decatur until her death in 2004. Billy Ray then went to live with his sister, Penny Skinner, who died in a car crash in 2006. Richard Young, Billy Ray's younger brother, assumed guardianship. Richard Young, 49, also assumed custody of Penny Skinner's son, who is also disabled.

Rose Ross, the Youngs' aunt, found the family living in Decatur in 2010 after she said Richard Young called her saying state investigators were at the door, Ross said.

The house was dirty and infested with roaches and mice, Ross said. Billy Ray Young had lost weight. Ross stepped in and said she would help the family.

The family moved away sometime later. Police said they had been living in Missouri before moving to a house on Patricia Lane in Belleville.

On March 11, Belleville police received a call. They came to the home and found Billy Ray Young.

If prosecutors can show that the neglect lead to Billy Ray Young's death, the charges against Richard Young, 48, and Elizabeth Young, 32, may be enhanced.

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 618-239-2570.

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