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Five Georgia detention center staff charged a year after the death of a 16-year-old in custody

Five former employees of a Georgia juvenile detention center have been charged after a 16-year-old girl died in custody last August.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced Friday that a grand jury has indicted employees of the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Maveis Brooks, a sergeant, Russell Ballard, a cadet, and Rebecka Phillips, an officer, were all charged with two counts of first-degree cruelty to children and one count of second-degree cruelty to children, while Monica Hedrick, a nurse, and David McKinney, the director of the detention center, both were charged with second-degree cruelty to children.

Alexis Sluder, the 16-year-old, died suddenly in August 2022. She had been transferred to Dalton Youth Detention Center just hours before she died, according to the Associated Press..

The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice wrote in a statement following the charges: “Two previously fired employees were related to the incident and three others were still employed but have now been fired following the indictment. 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 our sincere thoughts and prayers for the family of the deceased.”

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The Whitfield County Coronertold WTVC in the days following the teen’s death, Sluder had “experienced an adverse reaction” to “an illegal substance she ingested prior to being admitted to our facility.”

An attorney for the teen’s family told the newspaper last week that they are “very pleased that the Whitfield County Attorney’s Office is taking Alexis’s death seriously.”

“Alexis died a painful and avoidable death, and while this criminal prosecution will not return her to her family, it is a step toward accountability,” the lawyer continued. “People who are imprisoned are still people with constitutional rights to be free from the kind of behavior the officers engage in. Those in charge had a responsibility to take care of her, but a family lost their teenage daughter instead. In the end, Alexis deserved better.”

According to an online obituary for Sluder, she was a student at Gilmer High School and “enjoyed playing softball and competing in beauty pageants, where she always won ‘Prettiest Smile’.”

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