Murder charges against rehab center are a first in California

FINALLY- Thanks to the coverage in the Los Angeles Times .

by Paloma EsquivelContact Reporter

Murder charges against rehab center are a first in California

Gary Benefield was in rough shape when a driver from the substance abuse treatment company A Better Tomorrow met him at the San Diego airport in 2010.

It was the day before his 53rd birthday. The longtime smoker had recently been hospitalized for pneumonia and was tethered to an oxygen tank, which he had relied on for years. He was seeking treatment for a drinking problem and had signed himself up for a round of detox and rehab.

Sometime that night, he collapsed by his bed at a Murrieta residential facility and died. The house manager, who was supposed to check on him regularly, had fallen asleep. Benefield’s body was found in the morning.

The family sued, reaching an out-of-court settlement.

What came next sent a jolt through California’s large drug and alcohol rehabilitation industry. The state attorney general’s office pursued second-degree murder charges against A Better Tomorrow and four of its employees — the first time in California history that a corporation had been accused of murder, according to the facility’s attorneys.

Kelly Strader, a professor at Southwestern Law School, said the attorney general’s office may have filed the charges as a warning to treatment facilities “that you’d better clean up your act. We’re going to take this very seriously.”

A 2012 report by the California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes, which outlined the four deaths at A Better Tomorrow, among others, said that the state had failed to police treatment homes, “with deadly results.”

http://www.latimes.com/local/crime/la-me-rehab-murder-charge-20160228-story.html