Pennsylvania care home workers accused of abusing residents

Mar 24, 2022, 10:38 PM | Updated: Mar 25, 2022, 1:25 pm

Two men who worked in direct care at a western Pennsylvania residential facility inflicted what a grand jury alleges was “violent, demeaning and humiliating” abuse on people with severe physical and mental disabilities, federal prosecutors said Friday in announcing hate crimes criminal charges.

Zachary Lee Dinell, 28, and Tyler James Smith, 31, are accused of abusing people who are not able to speak to report their injuries and lack the capacity to defend themselves.

Their 12-count indictment issued Wednesday describes that from mid-2016 to about September 2017 residents of McGuire Memorial in New Brighton were punched in the face and head, choked, kicked in the face, jumped on, had caustic substances and other liquids rubbed into their eyes and had liquids sprayed and thrown into their mouths.

Thomas King, McGuire Memorial’s general counsel, said the abuse came to light when police investigating Dinell for another matter found texts and videos on his cellphone. An investigation concluded no others at McGuire were aware or involved, King said.

Four lawsuits by residents or their family members have been settled by the home’s insurer, King said.

“This was a horrible event for everyone involved in McGuire,” King said Friday, noting policies were changed and security cameras installed as a result. “We’re trying to move forward from it.”

Dinell and Smith are charged with concealing material facts about a health care matter, conspiracy and 10 counts of violating the federal hate crimes statute. Neither man has a lawyer listed in the court records, and messages were left for lawyers who have represented them in prior state court proceedings related to the same allegations.

The indictment said the two men encouraged each other.

The grand jury said Dinell told Smith he considered burying one man in the garbage of a trash container and that he had already hurt another resident and was “about to suffocate him.”

The two men, who are both white, used a racial slur to describe Black patients and spoke of killing the people they were paid to help, the jury said.

“He didn’t ask to be born that way,” Dinell allegedly texted Smith about a resident in January 2017. “But here we are sanitizing his eyes and beating him.”

Many of the attacks described by the grand jury were allegedly committed by Dinell and documented in their text exchanges, including “slamming,” “sanitizing his eyes,” spraying ice cold water on a naked resident with hypersensitivity to cold, rubbing liquid irritant into a resident’s eyes, kicking a resident in the head and punching a resident in the head three times with his fist.

Smith, the jury said, was recorded jumping on a 13-year-old resident in bed. He is accused of sending Dinell a photo of a resident with a reddish spot on a sheet near his head that Smith said was the victim’s blood.

Dinell, a former resident of Freedom, Pennsylvania, is currently in state prison. A magistrate judge set Smith’s bail on Wednesday at $25,000. Prosecutors said Smith most recently lived in New Brighton, 44 miles (71 kilometers) northwest of Pittsburgh.

Smith was fired from McGuire in September 2017, Dinell in June 2018, the jury said.

The roughly 50-resident facility is an institution within the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese and is a ministry cosponsored by the Felician Sisters of North America.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Three children and three adults were killed in a shooting at a private Christian grade school in Na...
Associated Press

Police: Nashville school shooting suspect was former student

Three children were killed in a shooting at a private Christian grade school in Nashville on Monday, hospital officials said.
13 hours ago
(Photo from KIRO 7)...
Associated Press

Police: passenger pulled jet’s emergency slide before LAX to SEA flight

A passenger on a Delta Air Lines flight out of Los Angeles International Airport was detained for triggering the plane’s emergency slide prior to takeoff, authorities said.
13 hours ago
Law enforcement officials work at the scene along Wooding Road on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, east o...
Associated Press

Why murder defendant was free before killings in Washington

Kirkland Warren was out on bail pending a long-delayed murder trial in Arkansas. But when he was arrested in Washington, he posted bond and was released.
13 hours ago
fishery...
Associated Press

Much of drought-plagued West Coast faces salmon fishing ban

The surreal and desperate scramble boosted the survival rate of the hatchery-raised fish, but still it was not enough to reverse the declining stocks in the face of added challenges.
4 days ago
UCLA's Jaime Jaquez Jr. (24) shoots while defended by Gonzaga's Rasir Bolton (45) in the first half...
Associated Press

Gonzaga beats UCLA 79-76 in Sweet 16 on Strawther’s shot

Julian Strawther hit a 3-pointer with 6 seconds left to answer a 3-pointer by UCLA's Amari Bailey, lifting Gonzaga to a wild 79-76 NCAA Tournament win over UCLA Thursday night in the Sweet 16.
4 days ago
transportation...
Associated Press

Officials: Safety device, human error derailed Wash. train

A safety device failed, knocking a train off the tracks last week, spilling diesel after leaving an oil refinery in Anacortes.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.
SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Pennsylvania care home workers accused of abusing residents