Death of Murray Center worker being reviewed, loved ones look for justice

CENTRALIA — The Department of Human Services is confirming it has launched an internal review of the circumstances that led to the death of a staff member of the Murray Center in Centralia.

Rick Stewart
Rick Stewart

Veronica Vera, director of communications for DHS says the agency is aware of the death of the staff member we have identified as 56-year-old Rick Stewart, of Shattuc. Vera says the agency is “very saddened by his death and sends condolences to his family.”

She says she hopes to have more information she can release after the beginning of the week.

Friends and family have designed and are selling T-shirts that say “Justice for Rick.” Proceeds from the shirts are going to benefit Stewart’s family.

Information we have secured from confidential sources familiar with the incident says Stewart, a Mental Health Technician, was working Third shift at the Centralia facility on or about the night of July 31, when a resident of Apple cottage reportedly punched him in the chest then subsequently stomped on Stewart’s chest after he fell to the floor.

Stewart reportedly suffered two massive heart attacks either during, or immediately following the attack, and “coded” while still at Murray.

EMTs on the scene, transported Stewart to St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in Centralia, but he was ultimately moved to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, where he was reportedly kept on life support until Aug. 6.

We’re told that on Saturday, Aug. 8, agents with the Illinois State Police arrived at the Murray Center to transport the resident to the Clyde L. Choate Developmental Center in Anna, remarking that the incident is being investigated as a homicide.

However, ISP spokesperson Sgt. Clare Pfotenhauer says at this time she has no report of an ongoing investigation, but has made some inquiries for confirmation. She says once she has received information, she will let us know.

We’ve also reached out to AFSCME, the union representing staff members at Murray for comment. They say right now they’re working with the family and will have a statement later.

Funeral arrangements for Stewart are being handled by Sutherland-Garnier Funeral Home in Centralia.