PHILADELPHIA (April 23, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced that a Philadelphia Investigating Grand Jury recommended charging Hassanatu Wulu with a Felony of the First Degree for the Neglect of a Dependent Care Person and a Misdemeanor of the Second Degree Recklessly Endangering Another Person in the death of Christina Sankey.
Sankey, who was a 37-year-old, severely autistic woman, was left unsupervised in a Center City department store and after walking away on her own was found dead in West Philadelphia the next morning. First Assistant District Attorney Edward McCann conducted the grand jury investigation and is prosecuting the case.
“This is a heartbreaking example of how a careless dereliction of duty by a trusted care giver led to a woman’s death,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “Christina Sankey needed constant supervision, and her Individual Support Plan and companion care needs reflected that. Simply put, Hassanatu Wulu failed at her job and didn’t follow her training and emergency procedures, so Christina wandered out into the cold March weather in 2014 to die alone.
“Her death is a tragedy and my deepest condolences go out to the Sankey family. I’d also like to thank the Philadelphia Grand Jury for their hard work and recommendation of charges,” added Williams.
Christina Sankey lived with her mother and sister in South Philadelphia. She was born with profound disabilities and was unable to speak, bathe or go to the bathroom without assistance. Wulu had been Christina’s assigned worker for approximately four years prior to March of 2014, was trained on multiple occasions about how to care for Christina, and was instructed that she could not be left unwatched, even for a few seconds.
After leaving the Sankey home, Wulu took Christina with her to Magee Rehabilitation on the 1500 block of Race Street, where she dropped off some paperwork and then went into Macy’s in Center City. Security video shows Wulu walking into the store – with Christina behind her – at 2:25 p.m. Moreover, Wulu was not holding Christina’s hand. The two arrived at a jewelry table and in a matter of seconds Christina left the area alone because she was not being watched.
Less than two and one half minutes after she walked away from Wulu, Christina left the Macy’s through one of the Chestnut Street doors. A video camera at the Walgreens on the 1300 block of Chestnut Street showed Christina walking west on Chestnut Street towards Broad Street. Christina crossed Broad Street against the light and was nearly hit by a car. She then proceeded south on the west side of Broad Street and ultimately out of view of the Walgreen’s camera.
Casmir Care, Wulu’s employer, has a written policy and procedure in case a consumer like Christina leaves his or her assigned worker. Wulu was trained on that policy. It says that staff needs “to keep consumer in line of sight at all times” and “to keep consumer within arm length at all times, and in a crowded area to “hold onto the consumer’s hand/wrist” or shoulder. In the event that the client gets away and the staff member is unable to locate the client, the policy requires the staff to “immediately notify 911 and report the consumer missing.” After calling 911, “staff must then contact the supervisor of the situation including the information provided to the police. After contacting the supervisor, the staff is required to “contact the consumer’s family/guardian to inform them that the consumer is missing and the police have been called.” Wulu did none of these things and only called 911 an hour after Christina went missing.
Christina was found the next morning at 6:30 a.m., on the 1400 block of North 57th Street in West Philadelphia, where police, responding to a radio call, discovered her partially clothed body. The doctor testified that he found no evidence of trauma and concluded that Christina died of exposure to the cold within four hours of the time her body was discovered.