Home > Uncategorized > The system failed Dennis Perry, and it has also failed his killer

The system failed Dennis Perry, and it has also failed his killer

Paula Perry Smith is still grieving for her brother, Dennis Perry, who was fatally assaulted in a state-run facility for persons with developmental disabilities in 2013; yet she believes that the system not only failed to protect her brother, it has failed the man who killed her brother.

Perry, who was 64, died in September 2013 after having been allegedly shoved into the side of a boiler at the former Templeton Developmental Center’s dairy barn by Anthony Remillard, then 22, a resident of the center, who had a history of violent behavior.

After spending more than four years in the Worcester County House of Correction, Remillard pleaded guilty to manslaughter in March of this year, and was sentenced to seven years in prison. He received credit for time already served, so will spend close to three more years in prison. Remillard is intellectually disabled as was Perry.

Templeton Dairy Barn1

The dairy barn at the former Templeton Developmental Center, the site of the fatal assault of Dennis Perry by Anthony Remillard

Remillard was found competent to stand trial for the crime last year; but in 2015, he had been found by a different Superior Court judge to be not competent. The judges were confronted with opposing opinions by clinicians on that matter.

In a recent interview, Paula Perry Smith said that if Remillard was indeed competent to stand trial, then the seven-year sentence imposed in March by Worcester Superior Court Judge Daniel Wrenn was “a disgrace” because it was far too light.

But Perry Smith said she doesn’t actually believe Remillard was competent to stand trial. For that reason, she doesn’t believe he belongs in prison, but rather should be in a secure Department of Developmental Services facility that would provide treatment to him.

The problem, as we have noted, is that the Templeton Center was, at one time, just the sort of secure DDS facility that would have been appropriate for a man with behavioral issues such as Remillard.

But during the time Remillard was at Templeton, the Center was being phased down from a secure Intermediate Care Facility (ICF), which must meet strict federal care standards, to a group-home level facility, with much looser standards for care and supervision.

Perry Smith said that during the sentencing of Remillard, she gave a victim impact statement to Judge Wrenn in which she tried to make the point that prison was not an appropriate place for Remillard.

In her impact statement, Perry Smith referred to an investigative series that had been published in 2016 by The Boston Globe, which noted that after closures of state-run hospitals in Massachusetts for persons with mental illness, those people were similarly ending up inappropriately in emergency rooms and prisons, and many of them were committing homicides because they were not getting treatment.

But Wrenn was not swayed by Perry Smith’s argument, and sentenced Remillard to further prison time. “I don’t think he (Wrenn) got all of what I was saying,” Perry Smith said.

In a portion of Perry Smith’s impact statement that was reported by The Worcester Telegram, she said, “We have spent years looking for answers as to how and why this (murder) happened. A man with explosive anger issues and a history of violence was housed with our brother, who was an elderly, intellectually disabled man incapable of defending himself. We have been trying to learn how and why the system failed our brother,” she said.

We have long been trying to find the answer to that question as well.

DDS dodges questions about supervision of Remillard at the Templeton Center

In 2014, DDS largely cleared itself of responsibility in the matter of Dennis Perry’s death, concluding in an  investigative report  that there wasn’t evidence that the staff at the Templeton Center could have prevented Remillard’s alleged “spontaneous and unpredictable assault” on Perry.

We believe, however, that the fatal assault of Perry raises many questions about the Department’s policies and procedures involving care and supervision of clients with behavioral issues.

Among the questions raised by the Perry case that were not considered in the DDS report was whether the overall level of supervision at the Templeton Center was declining as the Center was being phased down from its ICF-level status.

No apparent questioning of the appropriateness of prison

While Paula Perry Smith has questioned the wisdom of placing Remillard in prison, it is not clear whether anyone in the state’s criminal justice system or executive branch ever asked that same question.

As we’ve stated before, intellectually disabled people like Anthony Remillard need to be in places that provide them with supportive supervision, structure, and security.  It’s hard to imagine that the behavioral issues that Remillard had that led to the alleged assault on Dennis Perry are dealt with in a positive way where he is now.

Perry Smith said she understood that Remillard had been placed in isolation many times at the Worcester prison facility because “he keeps getting in trouble” there.

The Globe’s 2016 investigative series did not come as a surprise to many working in the field of mental illness who have known that deinstitutionalization since the 1960s has led to a continued increase in the population of mentally ill people in the nation’s prison system.

What the case of Dennis Perry and Anthony Remillard tells us is that many of the same problems have resulted from the parallel deinstitutionalization, starting in the 1980s, of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

It appears that while many political and governmental leaders and many in the media have begun to recognize the problems caused by the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, few of those policy leaders realize that similar dynamics have occurred in the field of developmental disabilities.

Until policy makers and other leaders recognize that unchecked deinstitutionalization and privatization have created problems throughout our system of care for people with disabilities of all kinds, that system will continue to fail people like Dennis Perry and Anthony Remillard.

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