A Northeast Philadelphia woman faces two to five years in prison for the death of an autistic man in her care.
Stacey Strauss plead no contest Monday to involuntary manslaughter in the death of Bryan Nevins. Strauss was charged with caring for Nevins, 20, on the day he died at a Bucks County residential facility after being left in a van for hours on a 97 degree day last July.
At the sentencing hearing for Strauss, 41, the prosecution argued she was too busy talking on her phone and texting with her boyfriend to notice that one of her charges was left in the van after a field trip to a nearby water park.
Prosecutors produced phone records that showed Strauss sent or received 34 phone calls and 71 text messages on the day in question.
During sentencing, the victim’s family and former teacher painted a picture of a loving boy who was quick to smile and make friends. His mother said that though Bryan was twenty years old, he had the mental capacity of a two-and-a-half year old and could not get into or out of a vehicle by himself.
William Nevins, Bryan’s father, said sentencing maximums should allow for harsher penalties in cases with disabled victims.
“Our son baked to death. He fried in a car because this woman was too lazy to do her job,” Nevins said. “If she had taken a gun and shot him would she be facing two years? No. Somebody has to wake up here.”
The judge said Strauss showed a remarkable lack of remorse and failed to take responsibility for her neglect. He said that, along with the aggravated nature of her crime, justified a sentence longer than the three to twelve months that guidelines suggest for typical involuntary manslaughter cases.
Greg Pagano, Strauss’s attorney, blamed the stress of the trial for her “unusual affect.”
“You have to say all the right things at the right time and in the right way,” Pagano said. “It’s not easy.”
At the hearing the defense blamed the death on a system-wide failure of at Woods Services, the residential facility where Nevins was living at the time.
Strauss said she checked the van where Nevins died before getting out of it and didn’t see Nevins, and does not remember being explicitly assigned to his care on the day in question.