Caregivers sentenced for abusing autistic man

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VISTA, Calif. — Two caregivers convicted of abusing a 23-year-old severely autistic Valley Center man under their care were each sentenced Monday.

Matthew McDuffie and Michael GarritsonThe pair were sentenced to one year in jail, but will not have to spend any more time behind bars due to credit for time already served.

Registered nurse Michael Dale Garritson, 62, was convicted April 22 of two felony counts of willful cruelty of a dependent adult likely to cause great bodily injury and four misdemeanor counts and acquitted on a seventh count.

Judge Blaine Bowman placed him on three years probation, during which he will not be allowed to work as a nurse or caretaker, or contact the family of the victim.

After the hearing, the victim’s mother, Kim Oakley, called the lack of additional jail time for Garritson was “shocking.”

Earlier, Matthew Alexander McDuffie, 28, a medical assistant, was found guilty of two misdemeanor counts of willful cruelty to a dependent adult and acquitted on two similar counts.

In court, Oakley said McDuffie betrayed her family.

Surveillance video allegedly shows caregivers abusing a 28-year-old autistic man.
Surveillance video allegedly shows caregivers abusing a 28-year-old autistic man.

“We welcomed him in our home. I trusted him and thought he was doing a good job with my son,” she said. “He completely betrayed us. What I saw on those videos will forever haunt me.”

Both men worked for the victim’s family for more than two years, according to San Diego County sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Varnau.

They were arrested in September, after Oakley gave investigators more than 2,000 individual video recordings documenting abuse of her 23-year-old son Jamey, the sergeant said.

The family set up a video system in his bedroom over a three-week period in August. The victim is severely autistic and does not speak, Varnau said.

His father, Mark Oakley, said Jamey can’t defend himself and needs to be fed, given water, dressed and bathed.

Prosecutors said the abuse included poking the victim’s eyes, bending and twisting his arms and pulling his hair.

“I know, Your Honor, that my behavior looked bad on video but I never tried to harm anyone, especially Jamey,” Garritson told the judge.

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