ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Police say an employee of a group home for people with disabilities assaulted a client.
A police report says other employees of PARC intervened and pulled the caregiver off the victim, then called authorities.
PARC’s CEO calls the incident appalling and says it doesn’t reflect on the good work the non-profit does in the community.
“She hurt me. She tried to get at my neck,” said Kelly Hunnicutt, in a video recorded by her sister Erin Hunnicutt.
60-year-old Bonnie Burrell was charged with abusing a disabled person last week after police said Burrell placed both hands on Kelly's neck and throat and pushed her.
Kelly has cerebral palsy and an intellectual developmental disability. She has lived at the non-profit PARC St. Petersburg group home since she was 9 years old.
“It’s wrong. My sister’s nothing but nice to these people and to take advantage of her like that. You shouldn’t be putting your hands on anybody,” said Erin, who is Kelly’s legal guardian.
She says she has complained multiple times after she saw signs her sister was injured.
Erin also said in recent years, she’s photographed cut, bruises and long toenails on her sister.
The state investigated Erin’s prior complaints, but found no evidence of wrongdoing.
“This doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If you have one event that can be an accident, but if you have several events, I think you have to look at it find out what they’re doing wrong,” said attorney James Ragano, who represents the Hunnicutt family.
PARC’s CEO Karen Higgins declined an on-camera interview, but said Burrell passed a background check and had extensive training.
Burrell was immediately fired.
Higgins said PARC has provided services to the community for more than 63 years and currently serves more than 800 clients.
Erin says she hopes there won’t be future issues for her sister.
“They’re there to get good care and be taken care of. And it should be a safe place they can trust. If she’s there getting abuse, it’s not right, just because they think she can’t speak up,” said Erin.
We called Burrell to try to get her side of the story, but she declined to comment.
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