LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – A group home worker in Pinellas County is accused of leaving a 35-year-old man with Down syndrome and the cognitive ability of a 1-year-old to die in a hot van.
On May 9, deputies say, Joshua Russell, 26, was driving the man back to his group home following a doctor’s appointment. Detectives say Russell decided to stop by his home after feeling sick and left the man inside the van.
Detectives say Rusell had taken two packages of kratom and was driving back to the group home when he started to feel tired and nauseous. Russell returned to his home, parked the van in the driveway and turned the van off with the man in the backseat.
Russell told detectives he woke up in the hot van covered in sweat when he noticed the victim slumped over and unresponsive.
Russell unsuccessfully tried performing CPR on the man however he was unable to revive him.
Russell told detectives he went back into his home, got a gun and called his mother telling her he was going to kill himself after realizing what he had done.
Russell’s mother was able to convince him to pull over near 82nd Avenue North and Oakhurst Road.
When deputies arrived on scene they were able to determine the temperature inside the van was at 125 degrees when the man died.
Deputies located Russell nearby with a gun and he told deputies he was going to kill himself. He was later brought into custody.
Russell is charged with aggravated manslaughter of a disabled adult.