SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

January 2, 2013

Our view: Release report on group home attack

It’s long past time for the state to release its report on the circumstances surrounding the death of Stephanie Moulton.

The 25-year-old Peabody resident was a caseworker at the North Suffolk Mental Health home in Revere in January 2011. A senior counselor, Moulton was working alone when she was attacked and killed. Deshawn Chappell, a resident at the facility with a history of violence and mental illness, is accused of stabbing Moulton, then fleeing with her in her own car and leaving her body behind a church in Lynn.

Since her daughter’s death, Moulton’s mother, Kim Flynn, has become an outspoken advocate for safer conditions for group home workers. She is the driving force behind the proposed “Stephanie’s Law,” which would provide all group home workers with a “panic button” to quickly summon help in an emergency. Working with state Sen. Fred Berry, she also managed to get $100,000 set aside in the state budget for an annual “Stephanie Moulton Safety Symposium.”

It was in October, at a planning session for that symposium, that Flynn first learned of the existence of a new state report on the attack on her daughter.

In an affidavit, Flynn said a senior Department of Mental Health official told her that the investigation into her daughter’s death was complete and that the report was written and would be given to her “within a few days.”

Two months later, that hasn’t happened, and the state’s story has changed more than once.

According to Flynn’s affidavit, Department of Mental Health commissioner Marcia Fowler told her at the Dec. 4 Moulton Safety Symposium that “it was out of her hands and that she didn’t know when (the report) would be released. Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby (who has since resigned) told her the same thing, Flynn said in her affidavit.

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