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CA: Grand jury indicts 3 for autistic teen's 2018 death; restrained for an hour

July 25, 2022, People Magazine: Calif. Teen with Autism Died After Being Restrained for More than an Hour, 3 School Employees Indicted
Last week, a grand jury indicted a defunct California school for students with special needs, along with three of its former employees, on charges related to the 2018 death of a 13-year-old boy with autism.

A spokeswoman for the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office confirms that the Guiding Hands School, Inc., as a corporation, was indicted July 15 on a single count of involuntary manslaughter stemming from an incident that left Max Benson dead.

Three people who were working at the school at the time Max died have also been indicted on involuntary manslaughter charges.

The three individual defendants — Cindy Keller, the El Dorado Hills-based school's onetime executive director; Starrane Meyers, its former principal; and Kimberly Wohlwend, a special education teacher — are alleged to have restrained Max after he'd became violent.

The individual defendants have entered not guilty pleas. PEOPLE was unable identify an attorney for the school.

The indictment comes nearly three years after the school and the three women were criminally charged with a felony count of involuntary manslaughter.

All three women entered not guilty pleas following their arrests in November 2019.

Investigators have alleged that Max had his face pressed against the floor for an hour while being restrained at the school on Nov. 28, 2018.

Max died two days later.

While he was restrained, investigators allege that Max become unresponsive. A teacher at the school performed CPR, reviving him, and he was rushed to UC Davis Medical Center.

Guiding Hands School, Inc., was a privately operated, publicly funded school specializing in providing educational services for students with needs so exceptional they cannot be met in a public school setting.

Approximately a week after Max's death, the California Department of Education suspended the certification of Guiding Hands School, Inc., and the school was subsequently closed.

The school had been operational for more than 25 years. Today, there is a new school that opened up at the same location.

All of the defendants are scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 2 for a pre-trial hearing.


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