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Kentucky Detention Center Staffer Failed To Monitor Gynnya McMillen, State Says

Gynnya McMillen
Justice for Gynnya McMillen Facebook page
Gynnya McMillen

An employee at a state juvenile-detention center failed to appropriately monitor a 16-year-old girl who was found dead earlier this month, the state Justice and Public Safety Cabinet said Wednesday.

The Lincoln Village Regional Juvenile Detention Center staffer failed to check in on Gynnya McMillen at required 15-minute intervals, the cabinet said.

The employee, who was not identified, has been placed on "special investigative leave with pay," the statement read. The cabinet did not say how often the mandatory 15-minute checks were not made.

Officials have said Gynnya was discovered “in a sleeping position” in a “secure” room on Jan. 11 and appeared to have died in her sleep. The Hardin County coroner said there were no obvious signs of trauma or a drug overdose, and that a toxicology report will take several weeks.

Cabinet Secretary John Tilley has asked that the medical tests be expedited. State Police have said “no foul play” is suspected.

Gynnya’s was the first death in a state-run juvenile-detention center in 16 years.

The latest cabinet statement also said Gynnya “was under constant supervision through video surveillance of her room.” The video footage of the teen’s room “was under continuous monitoring by staff in the control room.”

It was not immediately clear what “continuous monitoring entailed,” including how many Lincoln Village employees were responsible for the observation or how many rooms and juveniles were under surveillance.

Last week, WFPL's Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting reported on Lincoln Village's monitoring policy, which “requires observation checks be made on a resident every 15 minutes.” The policy also dictates that that residents not be left unattended “unless that room has a camera in it.”

The cabinet did not immediately respond Wednesday to a follow-up inquiry about shortcomings in the monitoring.

Wednesday’s statement may further fuel questions and concerns about the circumstances surrounding Gynnya’s death. Her family and friends have demanded answers, and they and others have questioned whether the death was natural or whether it may have resulted from lapses at Lincoln Village.

Felicia Garr, Gynnya’s aunt and spokeswoman for the family, could not be reached for comment late Wednesday afternoon.

Here's the full statement released Wednesday:
Investigations into the tragic death of the youth on Jan. 11 at Lincoln Village Regional Detention Center in Hardin County are ongoing. The Kentucky State Police is in charge of the death investigation and the Justice Cabinet’s Internal Investigations Branch is also investigating. The Department of Juvenile Justice is reviewing video and personnel conduct to ensure policies and procedures were followed. The youth was under constant supervision through video surveillance of her room throughout the night and morning hours of January 11. The video footage of the youth's room was under continuous monitoring by staff in the control room. Additionally, the youth had direct visual monitoring by staff at various intervals throughout the night and morning hours where staff looked in her room to see that she was sleeping and in no apparent distress. As a result of DJJ’s internal review the agency discovered that an employee failed to make all of the 15-minute visual bed checks required by policy and this employee has been placed on special investigative leave with pay. Any further disciplinary action will depend on the outcome of internal reviews or the findings of any of the external investigations.
Gynnya was taken into custody following a physical altercation at a Shelby County residence shortly before 2 a.m. on Jan. 10, according to Kelly Cable, spokesman for the Shelbyville Police Department. Cable said Gynnya was the “perpetrator,” and that she was charged with misdemeanor assault after the alleged victim incurred what Cable described as “minor injuries.”

Less than 24 hours later, Gynnya was found dead in her Lincoln Village room.

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Reporter R.G. Dunlop can be reached at rdunlop@kycir.org or (502) 814.6533.

R.G. Dunlop is an award-winning investigative reporter whose work has exposed government corruption and resulted in numerous reforms. Email R.G. at rdunlop@lpm.org.