ASHLAND CITY, TN--An Amityville, New York family wants answers to questions surrounding the death of their teenage girl who died last week in a Tennessee mental health youth treatment center.
Fourteen-year-old Linda Harris died Sunday, September 18, after collapsing at Chad Youth Enhancement Center, a psychiatric facility housing about 75 youths between age 7 and 17. New York's Suffolk County Family Court had sent her to the facility just a week earlier for psychological treatment.
The girl's father, Purcell Harris, and brother, Reggie Snell, have received conflicting reports from facility officials, local law enforcement agencies, and from an emergency room witness.
"I think they messed up -- they did something to her," Snell said. "I mean, a week ago she was just fine when she left here, and then she just passes away a week after she gets there. That's not right. If she was out of control, they should have called one of us. It hurt my heart."
A facility official told Newsday that Harris was being escorted to a "time out" room when she collapsed and stopped breathing. A doctor at the center reportedly performed CPR on Harris while paramedics were called. But the girl was later declared dead at a nearby hospital.
A local sheriff's official said their office received a call that night saying Harris had stopped breathing after being physically restrained by a male worker who fell to the floor with her while trying to redirect her to the "time out" room. The facility suspended one employee, who was not named in news reports, pending the outcome of investigations.
Preliminary autopsy results on September 20 ruled out trauma from force as a cause of Harris' death. [Emphasis added] The Tennessee medical examiner is waiting for toxicology results, which may not be available for up to a month.
Last Saturday, Newsday reported that a Tennessee woman, who claimed to be in the emergency room when Harris was brought in, told Suffolk officials that paramedics found the girl with scraped elbows, blood in her mouth, and in physical restraints when they arrived at the facility to try to resuscitate her. [Emphasis added]
"If that poor girl was hurt in any way, people need to know," said Donna Hodges, who said she and her son were in the emergency bay next to the one Harris was brought into.
New York and Tennessee officials said they would follow up on Hodges' account.
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