UPDATE 5:58 p.m. 8-15-13
A nursing home with a history of abuse accusations is shut down and the woman in charge is now behind bars.
Our cameras were rolling as GBI agents searched the center and carried out bags of evidence. This all started when Michael Brown, 20, was arrested and accused of raping a fellow client at the center in July.
Thomasville police say when they started investigating, they discovered more problems and called in the GBI.
At 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents swarmed the Break Through Independent Living Center off Cassidy Road in Thomasville, GA. They arrested Earnistine Yates, 54, Thomasville, who runs the center.
Charges include four counts of abuse of a disabled person, three counts of false imprisonment and one count of operating a personal care home without a license.
Some of the abuse allegations include locking patients in rooms and tying them up with belts.
"This is a rescue operation trying to help these people move out of this location and find a safer better environment for them to live," said GBI agent Steven Turner.
Georgia Pines executive director Bob Jones says they're helping find homes for the displaced residents, many of whom have mental illnesses.
"We need to remove this person from the environment as quickly as possible before they get more upset," said Jones.
GBI agents collected and sorted through the evidence and say more charges could follow.
Press Release: Georgia Bureau of Investigation
On Thursday, August 15, 2013, Agents and Officers with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Thomasville Police Department, Thomas County Sheriff’s Office and Georgia Probation executed a search warrant at 1116 Cassidy Road, Thomasville, Georgia at approximately 8:30 am. This is a personal care home housing eighteen disabled individuals.
This home is being run by Earnistine Yates and the property is owned by the House of Joy Church located at 505 East Walcott Street, Thomasville. Also assisting with the operation was Georgia Pines, Georgia Southwestern State Hospital, Benchmark Mobile Crisis Team, Georgia Department of Community Health, Georgia Department of Adult Protective Services, SOWEGA Council on Aging and Thomas County EMS.
This investigation was initiated, one month ago, due to a sexual assault investigation on a client at the home that was investigated by Thomasville Police Department. Thomasville P. D. suspected abuse and neglect at the home and requested assistance from the G. B. I. Suspected abuse included patients being locked in rooms and being tied up with belts.
Yates was arrested at the residence at 8:30 am and charged with Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of Disabled Persons, 4 counts, False Imprisonment, 3 counts and Operating a Personal Care Home Without a License.
The purpose of this operation was to rescue the clients from these circumstances and place them in a safer home.
The investigation into this matter by the GBI’s Regional Office in Thomasville continues.
By: James Buechele
At 8:30 a.m., the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) served a search warrant at the Break Through Independent Living Center located at 1116 Cassidy Road in Thomasville.
The search warrant was served after Thomasville Police investigated a sexual assault about a month ago; Thomasville Police then requested GBI to look into further cases of abuse.
54-year-old Earnistine Yates was arrested in the process, and faces 4 felony counts of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of a disabled person, 3 counts of false imprisonment, and 1 count of operating a personal care home without a license.
As of right now, they’re calling it a rescue operation as they are trying to find 15 people homes.
The people in care of Yates range from their 20’s – 60’s.
There are several investigators on the scene that are interviewing witnesses and people that live there.