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Family to sue Rockledge facility after caregiver allegedly impregnates patient

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ROCKLEDGE, Fla. – The family of a 43-year-old woman with intellectual disabilities announced Monday its intent to sue the facility that cares for her.

The victim’s father was emotional Monday talking about allegations that 58-year-old caregiver Willie Shorter impregnated his daughter in 2015.

“My feelings inside of me are pain and a lot of hurt,” Robert Blanchard told reporters during a news conference in Sebastian, where the family is from.

Robert Blanchard said given his family's limited means, his only option right now is to take his daughter back to the Bridges care facility in Rockledge.

Rockledge police said a DNA test confirmed Shorter is the father of Dawn Blanchard's son. The victim's parents are raising Robert Blanchard III, now 3.


“We love him because he's an innocent person,” Robert Blanchard said. “He has a smile that will brighten the world."

The victim suffered brain damage as a young girl due to measles. She also has epilepsy, and her family said she cannot consent to sexual conduct.

 

The family said Dawn Blanchard's mental capacity is similar to a small child's. She has been at the Bridges care facility in Rockledge for 11 years.

Before his arrest last week Shorter worked at Bridges for eight years, including three years after police said he fathered Dawn Blanchard’s child.

“It was a blow off by the home saying, 'No, that didn't happen.' And we said, 'Yes, it did. My daughter doesn't lie,’” Robert Blanchard said.

Responding Monday to the family announcing it plans to sue Bridges, the facility’s president, David Cooke, said his staff, “followed all policies and procedures."

The Blanchard family attorney said more could have been done to protect the victim.

“They certainly had the ability to take some steps to figure out how this patient of theirs, who is their responsibility, became impregnated while living with them and continued to live there with the same people who were accused of doing this,” lawyer Kevin Smith said.

Cooke said that for a time during his employment Shorter was moved to a different facility and was also suspended. Shorter remained employed until his arrest.

“I want to thank the Rockledge Police Department for their excellent job for finally catching this guy,” Robert Blanchard said.

Shorter posted bail last week.


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