Brother of Slain Counselor Speaks Out on Regulating Group Homes

Brother of Slain Counselor Speaks Out on Regulating Group Homes

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CEDAR CITY, Utah (AP) -- The brother of a counselor beaten to death at a group home last week has appealed to authorities considering regulatory changes for such facilities to do so with compassion.

"My brother was all about nonviolence, peace," said Abraham Arnett. "I want to plead to all of you not to give in to hate. Do not alienate, embrace. Keep that in your hearts when you make your decision."

The City Council chambers overflowed with residents Wednesday at the special meeting to discuss possible new regulations in the wake of the death of Anson Arnett, 31.

Jesse Simmons and Sean Graham, both 17, are charged with capital murder, aggravated kidnapping and theft in the March 8 slaying at the Maximum Life Skills Academy. Authorities said he was hit on the head with a baseball bat and stuffed into a closet.

Simmons and Graham had their first Utah court appearance via video from the Iron County Jail on Wednesday. They are being held without bail.

Ken Stettler, director of licensing for the state Department of Human Resources, was questioned by Mayor Gerald Sherratt at Wednesday's meeting. Sherratt contends there are an excessive number of group homes in the city and a lack of oversight by state regulators.

Stettler said there are about 140 group homes and treatment centers throughout the state that deal specifically with youth. City Attorney Paul Bittmenn said there are 16 in Cedar City alone.

Stettler said climate and environment may be reasons why many such facilities are in southern Utah.

He said the state employs 22 inspectors to regulate group homes, with two serving the five-county area in southern Utah. They are required to inspect each home annually and try to make at least two unannounced trips per year to each facility.

Perry Arnett, the father of the victim, said it's not a matter of the number of group homes but of regulation and local control.

"I don't know who is culpable, if it's the state, the county or the city. That facility was in violation of 15 regulations," he said.

The state has moved to revoke the group home's license for purported violations, including having only one employee on duty when state rules require two, failing to do background checks on counselors and failing to contact Delaware officials before taking Simmons, originally from Wilmington, Del. Graham is from Rockville, Md.

The director of the group home said it was being closed anyway because of the traumatic effect of the slaying and the employees have been told to find new jobs.

Abraham Arnett said he would encourage the city and state to require self-defense classes for counselors and offer training in negotiation and conflict resolution skills.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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