HomeTop StoriesEmployees of the detention center will be charged on September 27

Employees of the detention center will be charged on September 27

Sept. 5 – Five former Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) employees facing child abuse charges related to a 2022 death at Elbert Shaw Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Dalton will face charges later this month.

Defendants Russell Ballard, Maveis Brooks, Monica Headrick, David McKinney and Rebecka Phillips will plead guilty or not guilty on September 27 before Conasauga Judicial Circuit Judge Scott Minter.

All five defendants were charged with first-degree cruelty to children for allegedly depriving Alexis Marie Sluder of “necessary medical care she required while in the lawful custody of said defendants by failing to timely contact the emergency medical authorities.”

Ballard, Brooks and Phillips face an additional count of first-degree cruelty to children — for crimes allegedly committed August 26, 2022 — and additional counts of second-degree cruelty to children for crimes allegedly committed August 27, 2022.

Sluder, from Ellijay, was 16 years old at the time of her death.

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Ballard is described in a Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) press release as a 62-year-old cadet from Chatsworth. Brooks, 35, is listed as a sergeant from Calhoun; Phillips, a 45-year-old officer, also from Chatsworth.

Headrick, 61, of Ringgold, is listed as a nurse at the Dalton facility. McKinney, 53, from Rome, is listed as director of the detention center.

Joe Montgomery, GBI special agent in charge of the case, told The Dalton Daily Citizen that several agencies — including the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office — assisted in the investigation.

“We were asked by the Dalton Police Department to assist them in the death of the person captured,” he said.

Montgomery said he could not comment on the specific circumstances surrounding the case.

“I really can’t go into much,” he said. “She got there and wasn’t taken to the hospital until later the next day — and that’s about it.”

Sluder’s cause of death is not specified in a Sept. 1 GBI release or in an indictment document from the Whitfield County Superior Court.

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“I’d be surprised if more charges were filed, but I’m not the last to say that,” Montgomery said. “If more information comes out, yes, we would put those leads out…when information comes to us, we always follow those leads no matter what stage of the case we are in, whether the file is has been converted. If we go to the Public Prosecution Service, we will still pass on that information.”

Montgomery said he has no knowledge of any further investigation by DJJ (or the US Department of Justice) into the matter.

As he noted, “there are a lot of moving pieces” in a case of its nature.

April Parker, a representative for the Conasauga Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, said Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit prosecutors from commenting on the facts of a pending case.

In an official statement, the DJJ indicated that two of the defendants indicted earlier this month had been “previously fired” by the agency.

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“Three others were still employed but have now been fired following the indictment,” reads a Sept. 1 media statement. “DJJ is committed to the well-being and safety of those 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.”

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