A staff member at the Beatrice State Developmental Center has waived his right to a preliminary hearing in Gage County Court; clearing the way for a late-December arraignment on charges he abused patients at the center.
Gage County Attorney Roger Harris says 21-year-old Cameron Barnes is charged with six felony counts of strangulation and three of abuse of a vulnerable adult.
A 78-page report on an internal investigation conducted by the Nebraska State Patrol for the Department of Health and Human Services charged staff members with abusing patients and others of turning a blind eye to the abuse.
Along with Barnes, felony charges have been filed against 30-year-old Matthew Pangborn of Beatrice, 27-year-old Matthew Johnson of Beatrice, 23-year-old Cody Creek of Beatrice and 21-year-old Carmen Yates of Beatrice.
Harris says more staff members could be charged, likely with failure to report the abuse.
The internal investigation implicated 13 staff members in all. The Department of Health and Human Services has begun disciplinary action against five staff members accused of failing to report the abuse and against three managers who supervised the members involved.
The Beatrice Developmental Center cares for nearly 150 residents with developmental disabilities, some quite severe. The report identifies six victims of abuse, all men. Some of the victims have limited or no ability to speak. All have been moved from the unit where the abuse took place. A former employee of the center brought the allegations to the attention of authorities.
Abuse allegations in the past have led to the center losing federal accreditation and then Medicaid funding. It has regained federal accreditation at three of its five units.