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Health Management Employee Murdered by Client with Violent Criminal Past

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There was a tragic story coming out of Dade City, Florida earlier this week. A 25-year old woman, Stephanie Ross, who was working as a service coordinator for Integra Health Management, was chased down a street and stabbed multiple times by the client she was sent to assist. She was pronounced dead on arrival at the local hospital.

Her assailant, now charged with First Degree Murder, is 53 year old Lucious Smith. The 53 year old has a history of violent and erratic behavior, and has spent much of his adult life in jail. He has spent at least 14 years behind bars. His last time in jail was from 1998-2005, for charges of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

It is unknown whether Ross was aware of Smith's prior criminal record or violent tendencies. Integra Health Management says they did not know. Chief Operating Officer Dee Brown says that the company does not receive information on client criminal records.

Might be something to think about, as the police department certainly knew about them. Dade City police Officer Brian Uppercue told the Lakeland Ledger, "We get lots of calls from neighbors and passersby about Smith. He is a very angry man. Anytime we deal with him we try and have a couple officers there just because of how unpredictable he is."

I am in no way suggesting Integra was negligent in this situation. For all I know privacy laws prohibit them for pursuing criminal checks on clients. But I do know that a young woman is dead as a result of her job, and that they now own this situation. Integra does apparently have a policy that no employee should go into a client's home if they fear for their safety, and Ross had indicated from prior visits that this client made her uncomfortable. Records from her first visit suggested that other Integra employees should accompany her on future visits. We don't know why someone did not accompany her in this case. Of course, there is no guarantee that two unarmed workers would have been anymore of a match for a knife wielding lunatic.

Brown indicates that they provide a safe work environment, but they “have to reassess and figure out how such a tragic event like this could have occurred”. Good plan. It might have something to do with the notion that a young defenseless woman went into a violent criminal's home by herself. Seems a good place to start, anyway.

Those background checks might be a good option, after all.

If local laws allow it, checks on clients in these types of services would certainly make sense. Background checks are becoming more and more common. The service worker going into the home likely had to pass one. Perhaps it is time for the client to meet the same standards.

Of course, background checks alone won't solve the problem. Once you know you have a violent person on the docket, the company will need a strategy to handle them (or alternately decline to). If you have a business where single employees are entering stranger's homes, it is a topic that should be discussed.

Someone's life might depend on it.

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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.

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