Family of disabled man who died in hot SUV calls for more oversight

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by JIM DOUGLAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

WFAA

Posted on August 12, 2013 at 5:36 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 12 at 5:52 PM

ARLINGTON –– The family of a developmentally challenged man wants answers about how he came to be left in the back of a hot car, where he was found dead hours later.

Police measured Terrance Sanders' skin temperature at over 110 degrees.       

His body was still strapped in the backseat of an SUV parked in the driveway of the Arlington group home where he had lived for years.

"He was just a little, gentle baby in his own little world," says Sanders’ sister, Dontoya Branch.

Terrance was nearly 30. His sister says severe brain damage as a toddler left him mentally and physically all but helpless.

"A grown baby in other words," she said. 

The state contracted with a small company, Cherry Tree Residential Services, to care for him. On July 25, a caregiver drove him and two others to a Grand Prairie daycare as usual, but instead of taking him inside, she drove Terrance back and left him.

Debra King surrendered last week on a charge of injury to a disabled person. According to an affidavit, King said she didn't remember how it happened.   

"He couldn't get himself out of the seatbelt she left him in,” says Branch.  “He couldn't open the door on his own." 

Dontoya Branch hopes her brother didn't suffer too long.       

"I mean, I just, how can you do a human being like that? That’s my question,” she said. “Why? How could you be so careless to do someone like that?”

Attorney Dwain Dent says the death raises questions about state oversight of contractors who care for our most vulnerable residents.

"Today it was Terrance Sanders,” said Dent. “Tomorrow it's your mom or dad. My mom or dad. Our neighbor's child. And we have an obligation to follow through."   

He questions whether proper protocols were in place, and whether they were followed. 

Terrance Sander's sister says she wants her brother's death to stand for something.  

"Every time I walk outside and feel the heat, I think of him,” she says. “I just can't imagine how he felt or what he went through." 

The state department of adult protective services is also investigating. The care provider company was in good standing with state regulators, with no healthcare related violations. 

Email jdouglas@wfaa.com

 

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