On Wednesday January 20, 2015, 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen was laid to rest after being found unresponsive at Lincoln Village Regional Juvenile Center in Elizabethtown, Kentucky on January 11, 2016.
Initially, the family was frustrated with authorities for the lack of information released surrounding McMillen’s death but today officials say that it appears the teen passed away while sleeping in her cell.
On Thursday, January 22, 2016, Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary, John Tilley, released an official statement that said:
“The youth appears to have passed away while sleeping and the preliminary autopsy report shows no cause or manner of death.”
Tilley also asked for an expedited investigation surrounding McMillen’s death. Earlier this week, Hardin County Coroner William Lee, Jr. said that an autopsy was performed on January 12, 2016, and showed no outward signs, such as “visual bruising,” which could conclusively predetermine a cause of death. The coroner also stated that it was unlikely that McMillen suffered from any heart conditions.
According to the statement, a full autopsy, which typically can take from 4-12 weeks, will now be expedited. State officials are currently awaiting toxicology tests, electrolyte analysis and a histology report.
Authorities have not said if McMillen was in her cell alone or how often she was checked on during the night. Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet’s interim spokesperson, Lisa Lamb, acknowledged that “standard operating procedure” at the Lincoln Village Juvenile Detention Center requires that detainees are checked upon every 15 minutes while they are locked in their cells.
“Policy further provides that residents will not be left in a room unattended when staff is absent unless that room has a camera in it.” – Lisa Lamb
Lamb revealed that there was a working camera in McMillen’s cell and that footage has been turned over to investigators.
The community activist group Stand Up Louisville has monitored this situation very closely and would like to keep the public updated on any and all circumstances surrounding this investigation.
What has been discovered is that Gynnya McMillen of Louisville, was a ward of the state at the time of her arrest. Her family situation is complicated and somewhat estranged but those close to her say that she was definitely loved.
McMillen was arrested on January 10, 2016, and charged with misdemeanor assault after an altercation took place at her mother’s home in Shelbyville, KY. The details of the altercation have not been provided at this time and police only describe it as a “domestic incident.”
Since she was a ward of the state, police say they called a court assigned caseworker who makes legal decisions regarding juveniles in these types of situations.
That caseworker contacted a judge, recommending that McMillen be placed into custody according to the Shelbyville Police Department.
She was detained and transferred 66 miles to the Lincoln Village Juvenile Detention Center in Elizabethtown, KY. McMillen had no preexisting medical conditions that are known at this time. Within 24 hours of being arrested, she was discovered unresponsive in her cell and pronounced deceased.
Stand Up Louisville representative Chanelle Helm says that losing a loved one is always traumatic but this is an extremely difficult time for the family, given that Gynnya lost her father less than a year ago.
Stand Up Louisville would also like to focus the attention on the lack of resources available to prevent teens in Kentucky from becoming wards of the state or part of the juvenile justice system to begin with.
Less than a month ago, an incident involving teens occurred at Mall of St. Mathew’s in Louisville, KY. The mainstream media outlets initially called the incident “a riot” involving up to 2,000 teens but that number, as well as the incident, was quickly downsized by the St. Mathew’s Mayor’s office.
“When you were 14, 15, or 16 years of age and had nothing to do on a Saturday, you’d look for something to do. It was not a riot. There were no rocks thrown or cars overturned or looting… It was not a riot it was just a large disturbance… I don’t want to paint with a broad brush and paint all these kids as being bad. There may have been a few that were rowdy and noisy…The number of kids was the real problem here.” – St. Mathews Mayor Richard Tonini.
Although, no arrests were made in the St. Mathew’s mall incident, many youth aren’t always that lucky when they encounter law enforcement in Jefferson County. Activists say it has become extremely difficult for many teens in Louisville to stay out of trouble with community youth programs being practically non-existent.
Louisville Metro Government ended its 2015, fiscal year with an $18.9 million budget surplus and many residents would like to see part of those funds be dedicated to community programs and facilities for the youth.
Helm urges the community to remain resilient in the awareness and fight to discover the actual cause of Gyannya McMillen’s death. She says the community has now become the family and voice of Gynnya and must fight for justice.
Stand Up Louisville would like the community to know that #GynnyaMcMillen and her family need every prayer, blessing, and energy as they go through this difficult time.
Gynnya (pronounced Ge-ni-ya) was laid to rest Tuesday. Helm reiterates that burying a child is a task that the family and friends of any young person should never have to perform. She asks that you please remember that Gynnya was a child, she was a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a niece and a wonderful friend to some beautiful young women and men.
A Go Fund Me account has been setup in Gynnya’s name but Standup Louisville has yet to determine the operators of that account. Once that information is discovered, it will be relayed to the public.
“As we search and demand for answers, we need to remember: -Gynnya was loved. -Gynnya was beautiful. -Gynnya deserved more. We are asking for more!” – Chanelle Helm
Stand Up Louisville is demanding answers and for the person(s) to be held accountable if negligence or foul play is determined.