• Caretaker in Florida falls asleep while disabled man dies in hot minivan, deputies say

    By: Bob D'Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:

    An assisted living facility worker in Florida is accused of falling asleep in a minivan, as the disabled man he was caring for died in the hot vehicle, authorities said Friday.

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    Joshua D. Russell, 26, of St. Petersburg, was charged with aggravated manslaughter of a disabled adult in connection with the May 9 incident, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

    Russell, who was working at Crossroads of Pinellas, an assisted living facility in Seminole, had taken John LaPointe, 35, to a doctor’s appointment, the Tampa Bay Times reported. At a news conference, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said LaPointe had Down syndrome, was nonverbal and had the intellectual capacity of a 1-year-old.

    According to deputies, Russell said he stopped by his home after the appointment and took kratom, WTSP reported. He told deputies he began to feel ill and parked the assisted living facility's Toyota Sienna minivan to take a nap, the television station reported.

    Russell said he later woke up in a sweat from the minivan's heat and noticed LaPointe was not breathing, WFTS reported. Russell attempted CPR but could not revive LaPointe, the television station reported.

    Investigators said LaPointe died of heatstroke, Gualtieri said.

    "This poor guy baked in that car," Gualtieri said at the news conference. 

    Russell went back into his home to retrieve a gun and called his mother, who worked at the assisted living facility, telling her he was going to kill himself, the Times reported.

    Deputies later arrested Russell on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon. Russell posted bail May 14, the newspaper reported.

    The charge filed Friday was added after the medical examiner's office ruled LaPointe died of hyperthermia, the Times reported. Investigators estimated the temperature inside the minivan reached 125 degrees, the newspaper reported.

    Russell was booked into the Pinellas County Jail, where he remains in lieu of $50,000 bond, according to arrest records.


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