School employees charged with manslaughter after autistic child dies from being restrained

EL DORADO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL/CNN) - California investigators have charged three school employees with manslaughter in the 2018 death of an autistic boy who detectives say was killed as a result of being restrained.

Three school employees are charged with manslaughter after a 13-year-old autistic student dies from being restrained. (Source: KTXL, Tribune, Family Photos, CNN)

Max Benson was a happy and healthy child when everything changed on a school day in November 2018, according to family friends.

“He went to school alive and healthy and he never made it home alive again,” Karen Hirch said.

Investigators say the 13-year-old Benson went to Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills where he became unresponsive after a special education teacher restrained him in a face-down position for nearly two hours.

Max was rushed to the University of California, Davis Medical Center where he died two days later.

The California Department of Education opened an investigation and determined staff members used an unnecessary and unreasonable amount of force. The school shut down after the state suspended its certification.

El Dorado County detectives opened a criminal investigation and charged special education teacher Kimberly Wohlwend, principal Staranne Meyers and executive director Cindy Keller with the felony manslaughter charges.

"Nothing is going to bring Max back but to have those people who caused his death held accountable for what they did," Hirch said, as she hopes justice in this case will help prevent this from happening to another child.

All three suspects were booked and released from jail and are scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday. The women could face up to four years in jail.

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