SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 21, 2012

Parents seek release of report on case worker's death

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — PEABODY — Lawyers for the family of a Peabody woman allegedly killed by a resident of the Revere group home where she worked have gone to court to ask a judge to order the release of a new report into the incident.

Stephanie Moulton was a 25-year-old case worker at the North Suffolk Mental Health group home where Deshawn Chappell had been placed by the Department of Mental Health, when, one morning in January 2011, she was killed, allegedly by Chappell.

Chappell is scheduled to stand trial in April.

The family has also filed a civil lawsuit against the state and directors of the private agency, North Suffolk, that ran the group home.

Moulton’s parents, Kim Flynn and Bob Moulton, and their lawyers want access to what they believe is a completed Department of Mental Health report looking into the incident.

On Monday, they went to court, in an effort to get a judge to order the report be turned over to them. They want to use the report, as well as information about prior placements of Chappell, in their pending civil case.

A Middlesex Superior Court judge has given lawyers for the state time to file a further response to the request before ruling on whether Moulton’s parents can have the report, as well as information about Chappell’s prior placements and any incidents that led to his transfer to the Revere facility.

“It seems like they are trying to bury it,” said lawyer Barry Feinstein, who represents Moulton’s parents.

Flynn, in an affidavit, said she learned of the new report while attending a meeting at Peabody City Hall in October, where she was involved in planning a symposium for state officials and workers that had been created in the wake of Moulton’s death.

She said a senior official at the Department of Mental Health told her the investigation was complete and the report was written and would be given to her “within a few days.”

The official “also said that because the report was about to be issued, he wanted to delay sending out invitations to the symposium so that it would not be affected by the negative reactions which he expected the report would cause,” Flynn said in her affidavit, filed in Middlesex Superior Court.

Later, during the Dec. 4 symposium at the Kennedy Library in Boston, Flynn spoke to Department of Mental Health commissioner Marcia Fowler and asked her about the report, she said.

“She said that it was out of her hands and that she did not know when it would be released,” Flynn said in the affidavit.

Flynn said in the affidavit that during the same conference, she spoke to Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby, who told her she also did not know when the report would be released.

During a deposition in the civil case, lawyer John Regan questioned the Department of Mental Health area director for the metropolitan Boston area, who had been designated by the Department of Mental Health to answer questions on behalf of the agency by its general counsel.

During the deposition, the official was asked about the report. Amid a series of objections by the attorney for the department, who argued that it was confidential and privileged, the area director testified that she had seen the report but could not remember its contents.

She also said she did not know why it has not been released.

Anna Chinappi, a spokeswoman for the Department of Mental Health, acknowledged that there is a report, but said it is not complete.

“The report is in progress, and at this time we do not have a time frame for its completion,” Chinappi said.

Chinappi responded to suggestions that the report was being withheld because of recent controversies at the Department of Public Health, saying the two agencies are separate entities.

Both are within the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

Feinstein said Moulton’s parents “are looking for one day of peace, and some answers.”

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.