November 1, 2014

Former BSDC worker sentenced to 15-to-23 years in prison for abuse (AUDIO)

An emotional court hearing in Beatrice ends with a harsh sentence handed down against a Beatrice State Developmental Center care worker convicted in July of repeatedly abusing residents there.

Gage County District Court Judge Paul Korslund sentenced 31-year-old Matthew Pangborn to 15-to-23 years in prison, telling Pangborn he has shown “a complete lack of remorse” for abusing developmentally disabled adults.

AUDIO: Judge Paul Korslund :22

“There was a sub-culture at BSDC which encouraged abuse and you were a leader in its creation. Hopefully, BSDC will again regain its good name and, as a result of these cases, there will be no doubt that abuse of the most vulnerable by those responsible for their care will not be tolerated by BSDC and by the criminal justice system,” Korslund stated during the sentencing hearing.

A Gage County District Court jury in July found Pangborn guilty of seven felony counts of abusing and strangling three mentally handicapped men under his care. The jury found him guilty of abusing two of the men and choking a third over a four-month period last year.

A whistleblower came forward and triggered an abuse investigation at BSDC, which led to charges being filed against five workers. Pangborn was the only one to refuse a plea bargain. Matthew Johnson of Beatrice and Cameron Barnes of Fairbury each received prison sentenced after being convicted on two felony abuse counts. Cody Creek and Cameron Yates, both of Beatrice, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor attempted abuse and received jail sentences. All assisted in the prosecution of Pangborn.

Gage County Attorney Roger Harris broke down in court after recalling stories of repeated abuse at BSDC, outlined in letters submitted by the parents of the victims.

AUDIO: Gage County Attorney Roger Harris [:25]

“I can’t truly do serve to verbalizing the harm in these cases,” Harris said, his voice shaking with emotion. After apologizing and regaining his composure, Harris added, “I would just ask the court to look at the letters from the families and give consideration to what they think is appropriate.”

Korslund told Pangborn he has no excuse for the pain he inflicted.

AUDIO: Judge Korslund [:40]

“You punched a client in the stomach. You choked clients until they lost consciousness,” Korslund stated from the bench. “The evidence clearly shows a deliberate pattern of severe abuse against the victims who were developmentally disabled clients of BSDC who depended on you for their care.”

Pangborn declined an invitation to speak during the hearing.

Doug Kennedy, KWBE, contributed to this report.