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Eight plead not guilty in boy's boot camp death

Seven guards and a nurse face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Published January 19, 2007

Genie Caruthers, center, of Panama City, joined other supporters of seven former Bay County boot camp guards and a nurse in court as pleas were entered in the manslaughter case Thursday.
[AP Photo]

PANAMA CITY - Attorneys for seven former juvenile boot camp guards and a nurse entered pleas of not guilty Thursday to manslaughter charges stemming from a teenager's death.

A videotape showed the guards manhandling 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson in January 2006 as the nurse watched and did nothing. The youth died a day later.

The eight face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of aggravated manslaughter of a child.

The eight worked at the now-closed Bay County sheriff's boot camp, where Anderson collapsed while doing exercises. The guards said they were trying to revive him, but Anderson's family and legislators were outraged by a security video showing the boy being kneed and struck.

Some of the guards' relatives and friends sat in the front row of the courtroom Thursday wearing hand-painted sweat shirts adorned with yellow ribbons and the slogan, "We support you."

Genie Caruthers said the public has the wrong idea about the guards. "We are just a group of concerned citizens and we want them to know we care," she said.

The video showed guards Charles Helms Jr., 50; Henry Dickens, 50; Charles Enfinger, 33; Patrick Garrett, 30; Raymond Hauck, 48; Henry McFadden Jr., 33; and Joseph Walsh II, 35, manhandling Anderson. Nurse Kristin Schmidt watched.

The local medical examiner ruled that Anderson died of natural complications of sickle cell trait, a usually benign blood disorder. But after cries of a coverup, then-Gov. Jeb Bush appointed a special prosecutor in the case, Mark Ober of Hillsborough County, and a second autopsy found that Anderson was suffocated by the guards' hands over his mouth and the "forced inhalation of ammonia fumes."

The death led legislators to dismantle Florida's military-style detention system for youths.

Waylon Graham, an attorney for Helms, the senior guard on the exercise yard that day, said he did not expect the case to go to trial for at least a year. "There will be thousands of pages of discovery," he said.

The boy's family sued the Sheriff's Office and the state Department of Juvenile Justice. On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that the $40-million wrongful-death lawsuit must wait for the state's criminal case to conclude.

[Last modified January 19, 2007, 00:38:57]

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