The family of a 36-year-old autistic man who suffocated in a North Miami group home in 2021 is suing the staffing agency that hired the three people accused of murdering him.
Three employees detained Edward Ware on December 21, 2021 at a residence called “Family Tree Concept.” A video shows an employee grabbing Ware seemingly unprovoked and, along with two others, wrestling with Ware for about four minutes in an apparent attempt to restrain him. Ware then goes limp and staff attempts CPR and calls 911.
Ware’s family filed a lawsuit against Care Assist Home Care Inc., which staffed the home, and the three employees involved: Katherine Hair, Terrance Nelson and Derrick Coley. Hair, Nelson and Cooley are charged with involuntary manslaughter in an ongoing case.
As the argument continued, Ware spoke on the phone with his father, Edward Taylor.
“At the time of his murder, I was speaking to my son on speakerphone,” Taylor told reporters at a news conference Tuesday. “The last memory I have of him is of the caregivers wrestling him to the ground and taking his last breath.”
Taylor trusted the facility and its staff to adequately care for his son, but instead they “strangled and smothered” Ware to the point where he died, the wrongful death and negligence lawsuit says. Care Assist Home Care Inc. had a duty to screen the employees it sent to the home and point out that Hair had a criminal history, court documents say. All three were unqualified and unable to perform their necessary duties, the lawsuit says.
“Had Care Assist Home Care Inc. hired competent, qualified, and non-negligent contractors, Edward Ware would not have been abused, neglected, strangled, and died,” the lawsuit states.
Taylor described his son as the light of his life.
“Edward was only 36 years old when he was brutally murdered by people who were supposed to care for him,” he said.
Attorneys for the recruiting agency and those named in the lawsuit either did not respond to calls or declined to comment.
The video, released by the Miami-Dade District Attorney’s Office when it announced criminal charges in the case and by the Ware family’s attorney, has no sound, but Taylor described what he heard on the other line in an earlier interview local ABC affiliate WPLG.
“The next thing I heard was the girl saying, ‘Keep him on the mat,'” Taylor said. “Suddenly there was a brief silence. Then the girl answered the phone again and told me he would call me right back.”
Ware was later pronounced dead. At a news conference announcing the involuntary manslaughter charges against the trio, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said it appeared staff was untrained in dealing with people with mental health issues and not the right ones apply techniques. This led her to set up a group to investigate crimes against the elderly and vulnerable.
“What should be done? Is it a training issue? Is it a staff skills issue? It’s an example of an area that needs to be looked at,” she said.
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