A Hanging Offense

Did the Devereux Treatment Center provide the care Cecilia Garrett needed or did it drive the young teenager to her death?

Gail Atkinson, executive director of Devereux in Texas, did not renew Saeed's contract on June 21, 2001, which was the morning after Andrea Yates's children died. She insisted in her deposition that one had nothing to do with the other, that she had been planning for two months before not to renew his contract and had already engaged another doctor. She said Saeed had previously refused to sign his contract, that he wanted more money. She'd also learned that he was building his private practice in Dickinson "and I was worried that he was leaving us."

Chicago's Josie Winston in her deposition said that "there has been success with sending students to Devereux." She thought that Devereux would help Cecilia learn how to behave in school, to focus, to relate to authority figures, to stop the physical aggression toward other kids. She thought that Cecilia, armed with all these new behaviors, would eventually leave Devereux for a less restrictive environment and eventually earn a high school diploma.

Cecilia, shown at a young age, grew up in the Chicago 
Cecilia, shown at a young age, grew up in the Chicago projects.
On the night of her death, Cecilia got in a shouting 
match with other girls on her unit.
Tifenn Python
On the night of her death, Cecilia got in a shouting match with other girls on her unit.

Cecilia's death, Winston said, "was very, very traumatic for all of us. We've never had a child -- never lost a child."

Whatever their flaws, Gladys and Victor Garrett wanted Cecilia home. Gladys Garrett repeatedly asked Devereux and Jean Brown of Chicago about that. What they didn't realize was that because Cecilia wasn't committed to the institution, she could have come home anytime. In a poem written October 4, 1996, Cecilia said: "God please take me away / take me to a better place where I can stay."

Jean Brown called Cecilia's death tragic. At the time of her deposition in December 2000, she said she hadn't sent any Chicago children to Devereux since then.

Asked earlier this month if Devereux in League City was still receiving Chicago public school children, a Devereux spokeswoman said it was. In May of last year, a 17-year-old South Dakota female patient hanged herself at the Devereux center in Colorado. Asked how many deaths there have been at Devereux facilities in 13 states, the spokeswoman said that information was confidential.

In his deposition, Saeed recalled that when he was at Devereux, there was hardly any patient with a local residence. "I think most of these children come from faraway places."

Gladys and Victor Garrett are divorced now. They came together to Houston in late February. That's when Cecilia's case was settled -- February 28, 2003, more than six years after her death -- for an undisclosed amount. The money wasn't disbursed till the second week of April.

Because of the settlement, those involved in the case say they cannot talk about any part of it. (Comments from attorney Doyle in this article were made before they settled.)

So the question of how much Cecilia Garrett's life was worth remains a secret held by a small group of people.

How much Cecilia's life was valued, of course, remains an entirely different enigma.

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This is not the truth I was there I was one of the girls at group. That place is a mad house ,ive been messed up since that day

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