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Thursday, December 1, 2011

UPDATE: Family of Dustin Higgins who died following attack at a Charleston, IL. group home to receive settlement: Dec 1, 2011

as reported by; Tim Mitchell, staff writer, The News-Gazette

Charleston, IL. - The family of a man who died from injuries he received in an attack at a Charleston group home will receive $450,000 as a result of a wrongful-death lawsuit that was settled this week.

The estate of Dustin Higgins sued the Graywood Foundation and two former Graywood employees, Christopher Oliver and Daniel Clark, following Mr. Higgins' death on Sept. 1, 2008, at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana.

Graywood Foundation agreed to the $450,000 payment to Mr. Higgins' brothers in exchange for the settlement, according to Julie Ajster, attorney for the Higgins family.

"The family members were happy that they could avoid a trial," Ajster said on Wednesday afternoon.

Ajster said Graywood's insurance company will be responsible for the payment because the group home closed earlier this year.

Coles County Judge Mitchell Shick dismissed the civil suit on Tuesday following the settlement, according to court records.

Mr. Higgins died from bronchopneumonia due to a subdural hematoma that he sustained in an attack at the group home where he lived with seven other adult men, according to Champaign County Deputy Coroner Joseph Ward.

At a Champaign County coroner's inquest, Charleston police Detective James Blagg said police were called to the home in the 1500 block of B Street about 10 p.m. on Aug. 24, 2008, on a report of a fight among the clients. Blagg said such reports are common among the clients who have varying degrees of diminished mental capacity.

Blagg said the man initially accused of getting into a fight with Mr. Higgins, Robert Gardner, also a resident of the home, told police that he, another client and two staff members attacked Mr. Higgins. Blagg said Gardner told police he was "egged on" by the staff to fight with Mr. Higgins.

Blagg said interviews with five other residents of the home, which he described as consistent, revealed that Mr. Higgins was thrown down, stomped in the head, kicked and punched in the abdomen. They also said two adult clients and two staff members were involved.

Clark, 25, who listed an address in Dolton, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in April for involuntary manslaughter and to five years in prison for criminal neglect of a person with disabilities in connection with Mr. Higgins' death.

Both sentences are being served at the same time.

Oliver, 28, who listed an address in Charleston, faces criminal charges of first-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, criminal neglect and criminal abuse. His next court appearance is set for Dec. 9.

The Graywood Foundation vacated the group home in March following a second death by a Graywood resident.

Paul McCann, 42, died on Jan. 23 after allegedly being beaten by two caregivers at the home on Jan. 19, leading the Illinois Department of Human Services to terminate its contract with Graywood.

"It is unfortunate this happened once, let alone two times," Ajster said.

Keyun Newble, 26, who listed an address in East St. Louis, has been charged with murder, involuntary manslaughter, criminal neglect and criminal abuse. His trial has been set for February 2012.

Marquis Harmon, 23, who listed an address in Charleston, has been charged with murder. His trial has been set for March 2012.

A separate civil suit filed by Mr. McCann's family against the Graywood Foundation is also pending.

# http://www.news-gazette.com/news/courts-police-and-fire/2011-11-30/family-man-who-died-following-attack-charleston-group-home-re

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