Inside the Augusta YDC: Critical Moments Lost?

Richmond County YDC
Jade Holder, 19, died after being attacked in the Augusta Youth Development Campus. (WRDW-TV / Nov. 9, 2011)
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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, May 21, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- New details have been uncovered in the beating death of a 19-year-old Augusta YDC inmate nearly six months later.

News 12’s Lynnsey Gardner has exclusive information that shows no one called 911 for medical help for nearly 30 minutes after Jade Holder was beaten, meanwhile, he sat critically injured and dying.

News 12 has exclusively received the coroner's autopsy report, which confirms Holder's injuries were visible and extensive. During a fight in his cell, Holder's head was smashed into a toilet. He suffered nine external injuries, seven of which were to his head. Holder also suffered eight internal injuries to his head.

According to the coroner, any of these eight internal head injuries could have been fatal.

Holder sat critically injured for 30 minutes after this brutal beating without one person, officer or supervisor, at the Augusta Youth Development Campus calling 911. After 911 was called, medical help took even longer to arrive at the scene.

The conversation read between YDC personnel and dispatch read:
911 Operator: “Augusta 911, what's the location of your emergency?”
Officer Nicole Carpenter: “Augusta Youth -- A -- YDC. Augusta YDC.”
911: “Yeah … where is … what's the problem?”
Carpenter: “We, um, we have a resident that is severely injured. I believe he got into a fight. He has severe lacerations behind his head.”
911: “Head laceration, OK.”

This first call, from Officer Carpenter, was at 9:33 p.m., nearly 30 minutes after Holder sustained 15 injuries to his head.

Gold Cross Ambulance Service was called at 9:36 p.m., and paramedics did not get to Holder for another 20 minutes after that at 9:52 p.m.

When Pam Holder, the victim's mother, learned of the delay for the first time and listened to the 911 call, she said, "It seems like to me she was trying to call secretly to get him some help."

"The scene was cleaned up. If you have time to grab a mop bucket and go clean up my child's life, you have the time to get a phone and call and save him," she said.

Dispatch called the YDC back to check if the victim was still conscious.

This phone call showed more confusion:
Carpenter: "Thank you for calling Augusta YDC, Officer Carpenter speaking."
911: "That patient, did he lose consciousness at any time?"
Carpenter: "Um, I was told he did."
911: "He did. Was he conscious when they called you?"
Carpenter: "Um, when they first called, no ma’am, he wasn't. When I checked on him maybe about a minute or so later, they said he had come back to consciousness. But I'm receiving conflicting stories ... I'm talking to four or five different people."
911: "How old is he? Do we know?"
Carpenter: "Jade Holder ... he is ... 19 ..."
911: "Do we know how it happened?"
Carpenter: "From what they telling me, it was a fight."
911: "OK, make sure security goes in with them."

According to the coroner's report, youths were first seen on security camera video going into Holder's cell at 9:03 p.m. The beating followed inside the cell and off camera.

The youths got inside the cell because Guard Marlon McCreary failed to lock the cell doors. McCreary says he didn't know or hear of the fight until 9:14 p.m., when he spotted nine youths outside of their respective cells. At this time, McCreary also spotted Holder “laying on his room floor with blood coming out of his head.”

The Department of Juvenile Justice's incident report and the medic’s narrative dictate what they walked in and found.

Travis, an EMS worker, wrote, "19-year-old male sitting in a chair in the common area of his cell block. According to the staff, he had been assaulted by one or more inmates ... his head had been slammed into a toilet."

The on-call nurse, Linda Jones, wrote, "Youth positioned in a chair with a security officer holding his head in an upright position, while holding gauze to the back of the youth's head. There was a large amount of blood. Youth was non-responsive. The right side of his head was bulging."

It’s an account that is still difficult for his mother to picture.

“OK, if you walk outside and someone's had a heart attack, first thing somebody's gonna do is be like, 'Are you OK?' Call 911. You walk down there, you see him laying there with a big hole in his head and the first thing you say is, 'Can you clean that up?'” she said.

After 20 minutes on site, the ambulance finally left the YDC facility to get Holder to a hospital.

According to Travis, they "attempted to intubate twice, but were unsuccessful. En route to MCG ER, we had to stop at the prison sally port and have the patient placed in ankle cuffs, per the prison protocol."

Holder did not arrive at the ER until 10:22 p.m., almost an hour and 20 minutes after the camera caught the youths entering his cell.

He never regained consciousness and was taken off life support the next day. The official cause of death was listed as a "blunt force trauma to the head."

According to Richmond County Coroner Grover Tuten, the 30-minute delay could have made the difference between life or death. Tuten explained that "as the brain swells inside the skull and it has nowhere to go, it actually kills the brain cells."

News 12 has asked the DJJ repeatedly for a timeline of the deadly attack, describing when it started and ended.

Despite telling News 12 the DJJ had not “established that timeline” or could even provide an estimate of when the attack started, we were provided this statement: "It is apparent the call was made as quick as it could be, considering everything else officers had to deal with when incident occurred."

News 12 based the nearly 30-minute delay from when the teens were first seen going inside the cell to that first 911 call. But the delay could have been even longer, since 911 says their clocks run two to three minutes slow, meaning it could have been closer to 33 minutes from the time of the attack to the call for help.

This tragic situation begs the question: What were the YDC personnel doing if they were not calling 911?

Sgt. McCreary was alone in Unit 43 when the fight happened. He called the control tower at 9:14 p.m. The DJJ says they were to call off-duty supervisors and 911.

Meanwhile, McCreary was breaking up another fight – where nine residents were out of their rooms. He says back-up didn’t arrive to his unit for another 10 to 12 minutes.

“The other kids were irate, had broom handles, attempting to fight, fighting with staff. I had to ensure the scene was safe first,” he said.

Call logs show former Captain of Security Victor Martin received a call on his state-issued cell phone at 9;16 p.m., which was still about 17 minutes before 911 was called. Martin drove to the campus from home and spotted Jade.

“I saw a youth in distress, and I couldn't help him. There was nothing I could do,” he said.

Coroner Tuten is still shocked by the time delay.

“I find it amazing we got someone in state custody who’s had a problem and nobody called and got medical help for him immediately. I just don't know what the holdup was,” he said.

When asked if Tuten had ever heard of a situation where personnel at this facility or others where personnel waited 30 to 40 minutes to get medical help, he said it was unprecedented.

“Now I can understand why they had a complete overhaul at YDC,” he said.

Since Holder’s death, 46 people have been fired or resigned at the YDC, including Director John Brady and Cpt. Martin. Martin was fired for a cell phone contraband allegation that he denies.

Sgt. McCreary was fired for failing to lock the cell doors that night, which is a violation of DJJ protocol.

Three others, Director Charles McGruder, Counselor Sharon Taylor and Officer Tracy Banks, were also fired. Banks is accused of inappropriate relationships with youths. None of them have been charged criminally.

Several others were terminated for a host of allegations, including bringing contraband inside for youths, including cell phones, alcohol, food and drugs. The new commissioner found and fired those responsible.

But when it comes to Holder’s death, only one person is charged: fellow inmate Michael Everidge.

News 12 uncovered an internal memo that Holder was set to meet with an internal DJJ investigator later on the week he was killed. We still don’t have the reason why.

As for the fatal assault, a new document from the Coroner’s Office cites a conversation between then-Director Brady and DJJ Regional Director Cynthia Wood. Both say Holder was assaulted by five inmates. Several sources have said the same thing, including the emergency responder report.

Everidge’s mother has long maintained his innocence.

Holder’s mother, however, has her own thoughts.

“I have a feeling this is all they're gonna do,” she said.

Holder’s mother says she does not feel like they’ve gotten to the bottom of it and that they never will.

“I blame the youth that was there, the guard that was on duty and the person that hired him,” she said.

And while the time has passed, the pain of her oldest son’s death has not.

“To turn a blind eye on the life of a child,” she said, “It was your responsibility to guard and protect them -- and you failed.”

To read more on News 12's investigation into the Augusta Youth Development Campus, click here.