A Florida man with Down Syndrome died in a hot car after his caregiver fell asleep. 35-year-old John LaPointe was nonverbal and had the cognitive ability of a 1-year-old. His caregiver and the driver of the van, Joshua D. Russell, had fallen asleep in the driver’s seat of the van after taking drugs according to the police. Source.
Russell was an employee of the group home where LaPointe was a resident. He was arrested and charged with one count of aggravated manslaughter in connection to LaPointe’s death. LaPointe was found in the backseat of the van after being left for several hours with no air conditioning while Russell slept in the front seat.
According to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, it was evident that LaPointe suffered, and his death had to have been horrific. Temperatures inside the van climbed to around 125 degrees. It is unclear why the heat did not affect Russell in the same way it affected LaPointe.
When deputies arrived at the scene, Russell had fled the scene. He was found nearby with a gun and threatening to kill himself. Authorities were told by Russell that he had taken LaPointe to a doctor’s appointment earlier that day, after which he stopped by his own house to use a substance called kratom. While Russell was inside his home, LaPointe was left inside the van.
The kratom caused Russell to feel sick on the drive back to Crossroads of Pinellas group home, so he turned around and parked the van in his driveway. This is where he fell asleep. According to Russell, he turned the van off because it had poor air conditioning and would overheat. LaPointe was slumped over and not breathing when Russell woke up around three hours later.
Russell told detectives that he attempted CPR. When the CPR did not work, he went into his house and grabbed a gun, and called his mother, and drove to meet with her. After Russell arrived at his mother’s, she made the 911 call alerting the authorities of what had happened.
According to the autopsy, it was determined that LaPointe’s cause of death was overheating.
Assisted living facilities should be a safe place for your family members, but unfortunately, that is not always the case. If someone you love has been the victim of abuse at an assisted living facility, contact Beltz & Beltz. Our attorneys will represent victims anywhere in the state of Florida.
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