State officials said Monday that the death of a 53-year-old mentally disabled woman residing at the Denton State School was an accident, even though the Tarrant County Medical Examiner has ruled it a homicide by assault.
Laura Albrecht, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, said Janice Campbell’s death occurred when she and another resident at the school accidentally collided.
“This was a tragic accident involving two residents,” Albrecht said.
The medical examiner’s Web site states that Campbell died Friday at a Fort Worth hospital. It says the cause of death was a closed head injury due to assault and that the manner of death was homicide.
Linda Anderson, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office, said Campbell’s death was ruled a homicide on the basis of autopsy results and information provided by the physician who treated her injuries.
The physician did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press.
Anderson said the medical examiner has requested information from the state but has yet to receive it.
“It’s still an open investigation, and if there are any changes, we will amend that (homicide finding),” she said.
Campbell was taken immediately to a Fort Worth hospital by air ambulance after the incident, which occurred on March 5, Albrecht said.
The matter was investigated by the state as well as reported to Denton police, she said.
Albrecht said the collision happened when an adult male resident was running in the school’s workshop area. The resident slowed down when told to do so by a staff member but couldn’t avoid hitting Campbell, she said.
“The staff member instructed the resident to stop,” Albrecht said. “The resident did stop. But then there was (Campbell) coming into the workshop area, and, basically, they collided.”
Denton police spokesman Ryan Grelle said it is unlikely that charges will be filed. He cited the apparent accidental nature of the incident as well as the diminished mental capacity of the resident who caused it.
“It would be hard to say there was criminal intent to kill someone,” he said.
The death comes at a time when the state school system is under fire for a variety of reasons, including last week’s revelation that employees at the Corpus Christi facility organized and videotaped a “fight club” involving residents.
The state has been considering a major overhaul of the system after a Justice Department investigation last year found hundreds of cases of abuse and neglect, including as many as 53 deaths in the facilities due to potentially avoidable conditions.