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Employee at group home owned by Diyonne McGraw arrested for abuse of a disabled person

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

Wanda Denise Thomas, 59, an employee of both the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and Easy Living Group Home, which is owned by Alachua County School Board candidate Diyonne McGraw, was arrested last night and charged with two felony counts of abuse of an elderly or disabled adult.

The arrest report states that a deputy from Alachua County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Easy Living Group Home at 2673 SE 18th Avenue in reference to a DCF investigation. According to the report, the business provides housing for mentally disabled adults, and the victims in this case are vulnerable adults due to intellectual impairments.

The case began with an anonymous report to DCF, alleging abuse to two or more residents in the home, specifically that the victims had been struck with a belt and had bruises on multiple areas of the body. Because Thomas, the suspect, is an administrative assistant at DCF in Alachua County, the investigation of the case was handled by a DCF investigator from Marion County.

The deputy reported that he spoke with a caretaker on site at the group home, and the employee said that the home is owned by Diyonne McGraw and that his direct supervisor is Rodney Johnson. The employee told the deputy that he had noticed bruises on two residents starting around March 11 and that he had documented the injuries with photos.

Interviews with the injured residents were difficult because the residents have difficulty communicating, but both were able to point to the locations of the injuries, even in cases where those injuries had healed. One resident reportedly mentioned “Wanda” and “belt” while lifting his shirt to show where he had been injured. Another resident still had visible injuries, including long, narrow bruises that are “consistent with being hit by a belt.”

Other residents who are high-functioning and better able to communicate stated that they had observed Thomas striking the two residents, one “due to his behavior” and the other “for not listening to instructions given by Wanda and for his random screaming throughout the day.”

Thomas’ supervisor at DCF told the deputy that Thomas had spoken with her about how difficult it could be at times to work at the group home. The report continues, “Wanda stated that she uses a belt to control the unruly residents to which [the supervisor] informed her that she cannot do that. Wanda seemed confused and asked why not before again saying that she does it and that her supervisor is aware that she uses a belt to hit the residents.”

The DCF supervisor also said that Thomas told her she has seen bruises on the residents, and the supervisor reminded her that she is a “mandatory reporter” who is required to report injuries to DCF when they are brought to her attention. The report states, “Wanda advised that she has not reported the injuries in fear of losing her job.”

Thomas’ supervisor at the group home, Rodney Johnson, reportedly told the deputy that he was not aware that Thomas used a belt or physically disciplined the home’s residents.

Thomas has been charged with two counts of abuse of a disabled adult; she has been released from the jail on her own recognizance with the condition that she not return to the group home.

Diyonne McGraw and DCF have not responded to our requests for comments.

Articles about arrests are based on reports from law enforcement agencies. The charges listed are taken from the arrest report and/or court records and are only accusations. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

  • I’ve seen a couple of the local group homes. It’s a bunch of profoundly retarded people (mostly white) being “taken care of” by younger black people from the hood. It’s a scam to get guvamint money, obviously; that’s right up McGraw’s alley.

    • Any overgeneralization is false. I encourage you to research home and community based services and it’s profound benefits to an individual’s wellbeing. With all systems there are shortcomings, one being inadequate/limited providers; perhaps if there were enough it’d result in more accountability and less leniency in cases of maltreatment as there would be safe alternatives in the event an individual had to be displaced.

      • It is what it is. I’m sure it’s benefiting McGraw immensely. One thing is clear: she definitely doesn’t have time to be on the school board when she has much larger responsibilities that have been suffering while she’s been acting like a diva and suing the governor, etc.

        • She is CERTAINLY benefiting immensely. If more emphasis were put on care rather profit perhaps we’d have better outcomes overall.

      • I don’t know. This is a difficult place and a difficult job.
        What are you supposed to do when you have mentally
        Disabled adults acting out? I know what the belt is.
        I was paddled by a woman principal in elementary school for being a child. I think the woman is innocent
        And did what was required for behavior modification.
        She is a very compassionate woman to be working in
        A place like this…I feel bad that she was arrested. I think
        She’s innocent of the charges. When it comes to the
        Belt, there’s a lot of show involved. A lot of the belt
        Striking near and no contact. Sometimes there may
        Be some grazing contact. She’s innocent. If you don’t
        Like what I’m saying, then you go to work there for
        One day…it’s not a perfect world and sometimes if
        Have to use everything in the toolbox. Yeah, we don’t
        Like the belt. But sometimes it has to be used.

        • You have to be kidding me, so abuse is ok?! Let someone do as described to you, your parents or other vulnerable family member and applaud them with this same energy “oh she is very compassionate”! 🤣😂 TF

          Yes this job, as many others, can be a difficult job BUT if one is not fit for it they have a choice to move on rather abusing people in their home!

          The answer to your question is behavior modification, you knew this, however a belt or for that matter any item is never an option as they’re not your children AND STRIKING/HITTING SOMEONE IS BATTERY (a crime since clearly you’re unaware. People who got their ahh whooped (abused) tend to believe the only method is by beating unfortunately, it’s actually quite the contrary!

          Behavior Analysis and Behavior Assistant services are available and provided for consumers and caregivers when needed. Wanda has a wanton disregard for appropriate training and protocols and chooses violence as evident by her criminal history and Successful Living scoring a 48/48 in staff training and 100% in all 3 habilitation services provided (standard-(intensive) behavior focused), or perhaps the problem is the business/management with under reporting, poorly trained staff or fostering rogue/aggressive behavior by staff on residents, or a combination of them all!?

          Too bad the judicial system didn’t place more limits in her ROR that she shall not be a caregiver to anyone being she has the propensity for violence, mind you she communicated this herself and the residents confirmed it according to the police report! Sounds like Adult Services has some dynamic professionals zealously protecting this vulnerable population, way to go! 🙌👏

          May justice be served! ✊

    • What do you mean NOTHING to do with Ms. McGraw? The people you hire or contract represent the owner and the business and she is definitely involved in the operation of her business. Being so how has it been over a month that they (this business as many other businesses) were aware of the markings and neglected to take action despite being mandatory reports!? Help make that make sense?!

  • So, it was NOT Ms. McGraw who committed this! Just like a store employee who is arrested. Everyone wants to pick on Ms. McGraw.

    • You are a little slow, just like Miss McGraw was slow in being a mandatory reporter.

    • Everyone is not picking on Ms. McGraw. There are some but you have to remember, much she brought upon herself.
      She failed to set the example that many parents would have hoped. She showed a lack of character by not resigning her position on the SBAC. That was even after she was found to be in violation of residency requirements. She should have accepted the findings and done what was lawfully. She didn’t – that’s on her and I for one, hope voters remember her lack of character when the election occurs later this year.

  • If one black thug gets roughed up by a cop, the whole country has systemic racism. But a resident of a group home gets whipped like a slave in the 1800s and no big deal. Just one oddball employee. Nothing to see here. If any families will be filing lawsuits, McGraw will be listed as a defendant.

  • McGraw’s son was busted for drugs earlier, too. If the group home is for the mentally damaged by drugs, that should tell you something.

  • Diyonne McGraw back for more while Kim (“Elections is hard”) Barton smiles

  • I have a 40 yr old mentally disabled son and the reason he still lives with me and not in a group home is because of people like Wanda Thomas! NO EXCUSES for her! It is abuse…you put your hands on my child (and yes at 40 yr old) then my hands will be on YOU! Why so many of is caregivers keep our family members with us because of people like this! Don’t tell me how hard it is unless you have walked in my shoes!

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