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Live-in counselor sentenced in abuse of clients


A group-home worker who regularly took four retarded people to Baltimore while she bought drugs was sentenced to 18 months in prison yesterday for physically abusing them and stealing their money.

Kim Anna Scarborough, 26, of Baltimore accepted a plea agreement in Howard Circuit Court on charges of stealing more than $7,700 from the victims so she could buy cocaine and heroin.

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Murtha told Judge James Dudley that Scarborough would leave the victims in her car for long periods while she got drugs for herself and her boyfriend.

Mr. Murtha said at least two of the victims were coerced into signing banking slips so that Scarborough could get money from their accounts.

"[The victims] were forced by threat of physical injury and by threat of not being fed by Scarborough to sign banking withdrawal slips," the prosecutor said.

The incidents occurred while Scarborough worked as a live-in counselor at two different group homes in Columbia between April and September 1993.

Yesterday, Scarborough pleaded guilty to three counts of theft and entered an Alford plea to one count of vulnerable adult abuse and two counts each of assault and battery. The Alford pleas mean that Scarborough did not admit guilt, but acknowledged the prosecution had enough evidence for a conviction.

A total of 134 other charges -- including 69 counts each of theft and forgery -- were dropped by the prosecution under the agreement.

Neither Scarborough nor her attorney, Walter Balint of Baltimore, commented at the hearing.

Judge Dudley sentenced Scarborough to three years in prison, but suspended half the term. Scarborough will serve the sentence at the county Detention Center, where she has been undergoing counseling and attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings since her arrest in March.

Scarborough will be required to complete three years of probation upon her release from prison.

The terms of the sentence were reached after negotiations between Mr. Murtha and Mr. Balint. Mr. Murtha noted that the victims' families approved the plea agreement.

"The court will reluctantly, with capital letters, accept the plea agreement," Judge Dudley said. "I would be hard pressed to find justification of any sentence other than life in prison."

Mr. Murtha said he decided to proceed with the agreement because he was concerned that Scarborough would be cleared of the charges if the victims could not testify.

With the agreement, Mr. Murtha said, Scarborough will be punished and have a criminal record -- meaning that it is unlikely she will be able to work at a group home again.

Scarborough worked as a live-in counselor at a home operated in the 6500 block of Overheart Road by Creative Options Inc. between April and June 1993. She was responsible for feeding, bathing and providing transportation for two retarded men.

Court records say a county police detective met with Creative Options officials on June 9, 1993, after they found numerous bruises on the arms, back and hip of one of the men, aged 57. The second patient, 37, told the investigator that he witnessed Scarborough striking the man with a Club, an anti-theft device used in vehicles.

The men told the detective that Scarborough would force them to sign banking slips so she could withdraw money from their accounts. Bank records show that $1,348 was taken by Scarborough.

"Scarborough repeatedly told [the men] that if they told anyone about what she was doing, she would get them," according to a police report filed in Circuit Court.

Scarborough in July 1993 went to work as a live-in counselor at another group home, one operated by Kennedy Krieger Community Resources in the 5600 block of Columbia Road. She was fired in September.

Scarborough cared for two women at the Kennedy Krieger home, one with encephalitis -- inflammation of the brain that prevents her from talking -- and the other retarded.

Scarborough permitted her boyfriend to move into the group home, and the women were too fearful of her to object, records say.

Scarborough and her boyfriend repeatedly poured pitchers of water on the women's faces to wake them up each morning, records say.

Scarborough obtained a banking card to gain access to the money of one of the women without her family's knowledge, records say.

Bank records show that Scarborough withdrew $6,383 from the accounts of the two women.

Mr. Murtha told the judge that Scarborough confessed in an interview with police detectives after her arrest in March.

Her boyfriend, Shawn Elmer Butler, 22, of Baltimore, was convicted of two counts each of assault and battery in Howard District Court on July 11 for his role in the incidents involving the women. He is to be sentenced on Sept. 9.

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