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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Year after 16-year-old Alexis Sluder’s death at Georgia juvenile detention facility, 5 former employees are indicted

Five former employees at a northwest Georgia juvenile detention center have been indicted following the August 2022 death of a 16-year-old who was in custody.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced Friday that a Whitfield County grand jury on Monday had indicted the former director and nurse at the Elbert Shaw Regional Youth Detention Center in Dalton, as well as three former guards.

All are accused of cruelty to children in the death of Alexis Sluder, an Ellijay girl who had been transferred to the detention center. Whitfield County Coroner Greg Bates told WTVC-TVlast year that Sluder had only been at the detention facility less than 24 hours prior to her death.

At the time, the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice said Sluder died from an adverse reaction to “an illegal substance she ingested” before being brought to the Dalton facility.

But indictments charge three guards with depriving Sluder of necessary medical care by failing to quickly call emergency medical help. Those three — 35-year-old Maveis Brooks of Calhoun, 62-year-old Russell Ballard of Chatsworth and 45-year-old Rebecka Phillips of Chatsworth — are all charged with two counts of first-degree cruelty to children and one count of second-degree cruelty to children. Glenn Allen, a spokesman for the Department of Juvenile Justice, said all three were fired Monday after being indicted.

Former director David McKinney, a 53-year-old Rome resident, and former nurse Monica Hedrick, a 62-year-old Ringgold resident, were each charged with one count of second-degree cruelty to children. Allen said McKinney was fired in February, while Hedrick, a contract worker with Augusta University, was dismissed from working for the department last year.

Online records don’t show that any of the five have been booked into the Whitfield County jail. The Associated Press wasn’t able to locate a phone number for any of the five accused people on Friday.

A lawyer told WTVC-TV that Hedrick’s family applauds the indictment, saying “Alexis deserved better.”

Last week, Sluder’s friends and family sent WSB-TV a photo, showing them mark the one-year anniversary of the teen’s death.

According to an online obituary, Sluder was a student at Gilmer High School and enjoyed playing softball and participating in beauty pageants.

Allen said the Department of Juvenile Justice “is committed to the well-being and safety of the individuals entrusted to our care. We remain deeply saddened by this tragic incident and continue to hold heartfelt thoughts and prayers for the family of the deceased.”

The Dalton Police Department and the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office assisted in the investigation, and officials said the Whitfield County District Attorney’s office is prosecuting the case.

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