LAURENS COUNTY S.C. (WSPA) – South Carolina Law Enforcement Division arrested and charged two Laurens County women after a Whitten Regional Center resident was strapped to a toilet for eight hours in November 2020.
SLED said Mariquita Antionetta Mcgowan, 35, of Clinton, and Jasmine Lariane Tomika Carter, 25, of Cross Hill, were charged with neglect of a vulnerable adult.
According to the arrest warrant, Mcgowan strapped the victim to the toilet with a cloth like restraint belt on November 23, 2020 at 10:40 p.m. The victim was still strapped to the toilet at 6:21 a.m. the next morning. The victim’s treatment plan did not authorize the use of the device. Mcgowan never went back to check on the resident.
Carter entered the victim’s bathroom at 2:30 a.m., turned the lights on and after a few minutes left the bathroom with the victim still strapped to the toilet. Carter returned at 6:21 a.m. and removed the victim from the toilet, according to the arrest warrant.
The arrest warrant stated that Carter had full knowledge that the victim was strapped to the toilet during her shift and she failed to remove the victim.
The investigation came at the request of the Whitten Center. The facility is run by the state Department of Disabilities and Special Needs. A DDSN spokesperson said both McGowan and Carter were “separated from employment” in December after an administrative review.
An advocate for people with disabilities in South Carolina said they believe large care facilities like the Whitten Center should be relics of the post.
“It’s really frustrating to hear first of all that people are still in these large institutions that aren’t individualized for that person’s needs and dreams and wants and desires, but then the staff there are not fully trained,” said Jerri Davison, who is the chief program officer for non-profit Able South Carolina. “They are not paid very well.”
According to the state Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, the Whitten Center’s base pay is $13 dollars an hour, which a spokesperson said makes it more difficult to recruit and retain workers.
A DHEC report from January shows the Whitten Center was fined $5,700 for violations including failure to implement the facility’s policies and failure to ensure residents were protected from physical restraints and abuse.
“Other states have shut down their institutions,” Davison said. “South Carolina is lagging behind, and we need to do better.”
A spokesperson with the DDSN said the Whitten Center has adequate staffing and continues to meet the needs of individuals in its care.
McGowan and Carter are facing up to five years in prison.
Mcgowan and Carter were booked at the Laurens County Detention Center.