SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The mother of a teenager who died in the care of Texas' troubled state school system for the developmentally disabled is questioning the suicide ruling and says she's getting few answers.
An autopsy report says 15-year-old Sarai Melendez, who suffered from bipolar disorder and mild mental retardation, hanged herself May 10 with shoelaces at San Angelo State School.
"They told me that (Sarai) was on a 15-minute watch," Evelyn Melendez, the girl's mother, said in Wednesday's edition of the San Antonio Express-News. "If she was being watched every 15 minutes, why did she have shoelaces?"
Evelyn Melendez said her daughter also had bruises on her cheeks and legs. Yvette Torres, Sarai's cousin, had questions as well.
"Why didn't the (shoelace) break when she weighs 199 pounds?" Torres asked. "Why did she have bruises on her forehead when she supposedly hung herself?"
Evelyn Melendez said The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, known as DADS, sent her more than a dozen letters alleging abuse and neglect of her daughter.
Most of the allegations either weren't confirmed or were inconclusive, but one report of neglect was confirmed involving a female staff member who officials said had sent "several inappropriate messages" to Sarai Melendez's cell phone. In a letter, the agency said it found no evidence of emotional, verbal or sexual abuse but said it fired the staff member on neglect claims.
A DADS spokeswoman said she couldn't comment on any details of the Melendez case.
In December, a federal investigation found widespread abuse and neglect in state schools. The Department of Justice concluded that DADS failed to protect the schools' nearly 5,000 residents from harm.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.