Teens Tied Down and Shot Up With Drugs at Pembroke Pines Facility

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Spokesperson Shelisha Coleman told New Times in an email: "The Agency's area office... collaborated on an annual onsite review of the Citrus CATS program on November 5-6, 2013. At that time, no performance improvement plans were required by the Agency."

Despite numerous calls and emails to Citrus Health Network chief Jardon and calls to seven members of the board, no one responded to requests for comment for this article.

"They're favorable to the business entity, not favorable to the child," says a frustrated Weekes. "They give the company every opportunity to fix it. But what happens to the children while they're trying to fix it? They're still there.

"If you find credible evidence, you need to be moving swiftly to secure the child, not giving the business entity the opportunity to protect its profit-generator — the state contract."

On a Sunday night last August, Tanisha Howell's phone buzzed. A Citrus Health Network staffer told her that Octavious had been taken to the hospital. He was running a fever and had stomach pains. The next day, he was released with a prescription for antibiotics. The doctors suspected colitis.

A day later, though, Octavious was back in the hospital. When Howell walked into her son's room at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital bearing get-well balloons, she was surprised. Octavious was considerably skinnier than the week before. She noticed a layer of grime on his skin. Still, they had a nice visit, laughing together some and putting together a puzzle.

When Howell returned on Thursday, however, Octavious was listless. She spoon-fed him some mashed potatoes. He threw them up. Howell noticed his toilet bowl was caked in diarrhea. Before she left at 1 a.m., Octavious asked his mom to tuck him in. "He was my big boy, but he was still my baby," she says today. Before walking out, Howell noticed her son's chest was working overtime to get air. She would mention it to the doctor the next day.

"We never made it to Friday," she says.

Octavious went into cardiac arrest around 5 a.m.

An autopsy conducted two days after Octavious' death concluded the boy had died of natural causes from myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscles. The family doesn't see it that simply. It plans a lawsuit against the individuals responsible for Octavious' care — including Citrus.

"We've got an expert taking a look right now," says Howell's attorney, H.T. Smith. "Clearly it's more than natural causes, and we'll bring that forward in the litigation."

In January, Kate sat in a small, windowless room off a judge's chambers on the fifth floor of the Broward County Courthouse. She wore a simple blue shirt and jeans, her left hand nervously snapping at the hair ties looped around her wrist. Her eyes were burnt red from tears.

A case worker had driven the now-15-year-old from her new facility. Despite her lawyer's advice to plead out on her felony charge, the former CATS resident arrived with every intention of climbing the witness stand.

She wanted the world to know about that place. She wanted to talk about the April incident, about how she is doing now in the new program, about how far she's come from being the girl on the wrong end of a policeman's fist.

Instead, the prosecutor asked the judge for more time. The judge declined. The state, unprepared to go forward, dropped the charges. But instead of celebrating, Kate retreated to this room to sob, her shot at setting the record straight gone.

Defeated, she opened up just a little, for a smaller audience now.

"It was hell in there," she said.

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Kyle Swenson