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Lawsuit: Bronx Group Home Workers Branded Disabled Man With Potato Masher

Spokesman: 'This Was Like Being In The House Of Terror'

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A lawsuit is being filed in the case of a severely autistic man who was allegedly burned and branded with a potato masher at a group home in the Bronx.

As CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of Mayra Sandoval, whose son – Eduard Sandoval, 24 – was allegedly harmed by staffers who were supposed to be taking care of him. Mayra Sandoval was inconsolable as she discussed the lawsuit Monday.

He was allegedly branded with a hot potato masher by at least one staffer at the Leake & Watts residential facility last June, but due to his reduced mental capacity, Sandoval is unable to identify the person who attacked him, 1010 WINS reported.

It was last June when Mayra Sandoval visited her son at the home. He was extremely irritable, but because of his autism, he was unable to speak.

Eduardo Sandoval’s mother lifted up his shirt to find the burns from a potato masher imprinted all over his body.

“There’s no reason why any human being should torture another human being,” family spokesperson Fernando Mateo told 1010 WINS. “This was like being in the house of terror. This young man was exposed to pain and suffering beyond your imagination.”

The victim’s older brother said Sandoval is permanently disfigured.

“Imagine this being put on a hot stove and then stamping it on a human being,” said family attorney Sanford Rubenstein. “Instead of caring for him, this man with the mind of a 2-year-old was tortured.”

After the incident, Leake & Watts said the state recommended a plan of remedial action which was implemented, 1010 WINS reported. It included the firing of two employees, who are named in the lawsuit, and the manager of the facility.

The employees, Wendell Chavies and Asialone Edwards, were originally charged with assault. But the charges were dropped because of a lack of evidence, 1010 WINS reported.

“We took full and decisive action in terminating the employment of the staff who we believed were involved with or failed to immediately report the incident, as well as the manager of the home,” Leake & Watts said in a statement. “We initiated additional training and systems to ensure the safety and well-being of the people in our care.”

But Mateo said what happened to Sandoval is “unacceptable” and is calling on higher authorities to step in and investigate.

“After there was an arrest there was no prosecution,” Mateo said. “We need to make sure that the district attorney, the attorney general and the governor step in and launch an investigation into group homes where autistic kids are being cared for to make sure that this type of torture is not going on anywhere else.”

A year later, Eduardo Sandoval’s scars physical remain, and the emotional impact has not faded either.

Attoreny Rubenstein is filing the lawsuit accusing the facility, Chavies and Edwards of recklessness and negligence on Monday in Bronx Supreme Court.

The New York State Office of People with Developmental Disabilities is also investigating the case.

Meanwhile, Eduardo Sandoval continues to live at the same group home until his family can find another permanent facility. His mother said her only comfort is knowing that the people accused in this case have been fired.

Leake & Watts is also being sued by the family of a 16-year-old boy, Corey Foster, who died in their care in 2012. Foster went into cardiac arrest when a staffer put him in a restrictive hold.

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