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Medical Examiner: Restraint Killed Girl, 7

by Dave Reynolds (subscribe)

RICE LAKE, WISCONSIN--An autopsy has revealed that 7-year-old Angellika Arndt suffocated to death last month, and that the form of restraint that staff at a mental health clinic used on her might have contributed to her death.

The medical examiner's office in Hennepin County, Minnesota, said that the girl died from "complications from chest compression asphyxiation". Even though her death was ruled a homicide, which simply means that it was caused by one or more persons, investigators are not yet ready to say whether criminal charges would be sought against the staff at the clinic where she was restrained.

The president of Northwest Counseling and Guidance Clinic, Denison Tucker, told reporters that the foster child had been a "day patient" at the clinic for about a month, when on May 25 she became "out of control" in the center's kitchen. Tucker said that staff members put Arndt in a "controlled hold" with two staff members restraining her arms and shoulders as the girl was held face down on the floor.

Witnesses have said that Arndt calmed down several times, but then would get "worked up" again. The staff released the girl after about 40 minutes, when they said she had finally settled down.

Five minutes later, they noticed that Arndt had stopped breathing. Efforts to resuscitate her were not successful, and she died the next day at Minneapolis Children's Hospital.

Tucker and the clinic's board of directors have denied that there was any wrongdoing, saying that the staff properly followed the facility's policies and procedures on handling behavior problems. Tucker suggested that medical complications, including Arndt's medications, might have contributed to her death.

Wisconsin's Department of Health and Family Services announced Tuesday that it has ordered Northwest Counseling to stop using the hold while the agency conducts its own investigation.

Police say they have responded to at least two other complaints of other children being restrained inappropriately at the clinic -- one in September and another in April.

"Charges pondered in death of girl, 7" (Pioneer Press)

"State puts restrictions on use of control holds at Rice Lake clinic" (KARE-TV)


am writing to you today to ask for a little help on a subject that I am sure is very important to you.

I was contacted by Steve Wagner from the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) in Los Angeles. CCHR is a non-profit organization established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights and crime and fraud in the field of mental health. Steve saw my website and e-mailed me. He had earlier been contacted by Donna Pavlik of Minnesota, whose foster daughter, Angellika Arndt, died after being restrained by two employees at the behavioral treatment center where she was a day patient. Steve is seeking my help and the help of parents who have experienced similar heartbreaks in getting justice for Angellika’s family.

On May 25, 2006, 7-year-old Angellika lost consciousness after being restrained at the Rice Lake Counseling and Guidance Center, in Wisconsin. She died the next day in Minneapolis, where she was hospitalized. The medical examiner of Hennepin County (Minnesota) ruled her death a homicide (death caused by another person).

Angellika had been attending the Center five days a week for the previous month. She was placed in a “control hold” for one to two hours, in which she was held on her stomach on the floor, with one staff member gripping her ankles as another holding down her shoulders. She calmed down, was released and then passed out. The reason she was restrained? She was gargling milk.

I spoke with the Angela Holmstrom, the district attorney of Barron County, WI, who is handling the case. She assures me that the case is being thoroughly investigated and reviewed by her office, as well as the local police, Attorney General and Department of Justice. In May, Holmstrom’s office stated that it did not expect to decide before July 15 whether to press criminal charges against the two people who restrained her.

Here we are—three and a half months later—and still no decision on whether to file a criminal charge.

The two staff members who restrained Angellika were immediately placed on paid administrative leave.

The Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services conducted an investigation of the Rice Lake Center after Angellika’s death and issued its findings in mid-June 2006. The report cited numerous violations. The most alarming fact is that the clinic used physical restraint procedures on Angellika, despite the fact that her treatment plan contained no mention of the use of restraint as part of her treatment! The clinic failed to seek and obtain such approval. But they used it on her anyway, resulting in her death.

According to the District Attorney, the one thing stopping them from filing criminal charges against the Center and employees is that they don’t think they can prove that there was criminal intent (intention to kill the girl).

There is, however, the crime known as manslaughter. Manslaughter does not require the District Attorney to prove criminal intent.

There is only one similar case I know of where the caregiver was prosecuted: In February 2004, Indiana day care worker Courtenay Scott pleaded guilty in the death of 2-year-old Alexis Williams. Scott restrained Williams by putting her legs on top of girl when she would not lie down for a nap. Scott was sentenced to two years probation, including six months home detention.

What I am leading up to with all this information is a request for you to write a short letter to Barron County District Attorney Angela Holmstrom urging her to pursue charges of manslaughter against the Center and the two employees. You can return the letter to me and I will forward it to Ms. Holmstrom and will also send copies to the Attorney General and Department of Justice.

Please read over this e-mail again to get a complete understanding of the factors and then to write the letter from your own viewpoint and experience in similar matters. If you need assistance with writing the letter, Steve or I will be happy to help you with it.

I think that together, we can help bring about justice.

Suncana Sesic A.

Please send Email to:

Steve Wagner - swagner@cchr.org

Suncana Sesic A. - AtKidsVoice@aol.com

Web site:



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