TACOMA, Wash. – The State Department of Social and Health Services is now facing a $10 million lawsuit alleging neglect and abuse at one of its facilities.
The Rainier School in Buckley is a living facility for adults with developmental disabilities. In November 2016, a Rainier School staff member, Terry Shepard, was charged with second-degree rape for allegedly raping a resident.
On Wednesday, her family filed a $10 million lawsuit against the state.
Shepard has been charged but is still awaiting trial.
The alleged victim’s lawyer, Gemma Zanowski, says they filed the civil lawsuit because the family can’t wait on the criminal justice system. Zanowski says time is of the essence because they need their witnesses to remember what happened and who did what and when.
On November 13, 2016, a staff member at Rainier School went to find her supervisor.
“She found him in Maryann’s room raping her,” said Zanowski.
Shepard now faces second-degree rape charges. His alleged victim is Maryann Stallone. She is a severely autistic and non-verbal woman who has lived at the Rainier School since the 1970s. Three years before that night, her sister and guardian, Cathy McIvor, says she noticed bruises on Maryann.
“Just noticing bruises all over her backside, her buttocks area and in between her hips and her knees,” said McIvor.
McIvor says she told staff at Rainier School but nothing was done. That’s part of why this lawsuit claims neglect.
“There’s been multiple investigations at this school involving insufficient care of individuals at this school, improper reporting of acts of neglect or abuse,” said Zanowski.
Along with negligence, the lawsuit also alleges abuse under the state’s Vulnerable Adult Protection Act.
“The fact that somebody is abused or neglected at your facility is sufficient for you to be accountable for that harm,” said Zanowski.
McIvor believes her sister was harmed repeatedly by Shepard. She says the state knew Shepard was capable of sexual assault because of other allegations made against him.
“So why in the hell could DSHS and Rainier School leave him alone unattended with females that are disabled and they can’t speak? And they’re leaving him there on a graveyard shift where he gets free rein!” said McIvor.
The Department of Social and Health Services released a statement that says, in part, “DSHS cannot comment about pending litigation. What we can say is that the employee named in court documents was removed from duties where they had access to any clients on November 13, 2016 and was terminated from state employment on November 16, 2016.”
But firing Shepard doesn’t mean the end to the pain McIvor says her sister Maryann still suffers with.
“She just throws violent fits, she’ll scream as loud as she can and she charged me. I think she’s got a lot of anger. I mean who wouldn’t? During a physical, she pointed to her genitals because she’s non-verbal she can’t tell somebody, somebody is raping me,” said Zanowski.
Emotions are still very raw for McIvor and her family, who say they trusted the Rainier School and the state to keep Maryann safe.
The trial date for the civil lawsuit is marked for November 2018 -- so exactly two years after the alleged rape happened. As far as Shepard, his next court date is scheduled for Friday with his trial to begin in August.