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16-yr-old dies at Dalton youth detention center, five GA Dept of Juvenile Justice employees charged

Written by: E. George

Published September 15, 2023 @ 4:45 PM ET

WHITFIELD COUNTY, Ga. – The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced the arrests and indictments of five Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice employees in connection with the death of a juvenile while in custody at a Dalton youth detention center. The 16-year-old Ellijay detainee, Alexis Sluder, died on August 27, 2022, at approximately 4:00 AM, but the details and circumstances of the death have not been released.

Officials have not detailed the reason Sluder was detained. Following Sluder’s passing, the Dalton Police Department initiated an investigation and requested assistance from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, with cooperation from the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office.

A Whitfield County grand jury delivered the recent indictments, and the Whitfield County District Attorney’s Office will prosecute the case. The five Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice employees who face charges are:

  • 35-year-old sergeant Maveis Brooks from Calhoun, GA, faces two counts of first-degree cruelty to children and one count of second-degree cruelty to children
  • 62-year-old cadet Russell Ballard from Chatsworth, GA, faces two counts of first-degree cruelty to children and one count of second-degree cruelty to children
  • 45-year-old officer Rebecka Phillips from Chatsworth, GA, faces two counts of first-degree cruelty to children and one count of second-degree cruelty to children
  • 62-year-old nurse Monica Hedrick from Ringgold, GA, faces one count of second-degree cruelty to children
  • 53-year-old detention center director David McKinney from Rome, GA, faces one count of second-degree cruelty to children

Records from the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council reveal McKinney’s employment was terminated on February 15, 2023. Brooks, Ballard, and Phillips were fired on the day of their indictments.

The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice shared a statement, “Earlier this week, a Conasauga Judicial Circuit grand jury indicted five persons related to the 2022 death of a detainee at the Dalton area detention center. Two previously terminated employees related to the incident and three others were still employed but are now terminated following the indictment.

DJJ is committed to the well-being and safety of the individuals entrusted to our care. We remain deeply saddened by this tragic incident and continue to hold heartfelt thoughts and prayers for the family of the deceased.”

In Ellijay, friends and family held a stand-in to honor the one-year anniversary of Sluder’s passing.

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