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Attorney to sue state over youth counselor's slaying

An attorney for the family of slain youth counselor Renee C. Greco went to court this week to seek an order for her former employer to produce documents that could bolster a planned wrongful death lawsuit.

Donald Chiari of the Brown Chiari personal injury law firm said Thursday he plans to sue the state, which licensed New Directions Youth & Family Services to operate Avenue House, an East Avenue group home where Greco, 24, was bludgeoned to death June 8.

Chiari said the point of the lawsuit is the allegation that Greco was left alone with violent teenagers because of staffing decisions by New Directions.

"This poor girl had no idea these individuals were as dangerous as they were," Chiari said.

According to the lawsuit, "On the night of the incident, [Greco] was left alone to supervise five troubled youths. While playing cards with some of the residents, two of the residents, Anthony J. Allen and Robert J. Thousand, placed a blanket over [Greco's] head and viciously beat her until she died of craniocerebral blunt force injuries to her head."

Chiari said he wants to know how much New Directions knew about the backgrounds of Allen, 18, and Thousand, 17, who are both scheduled for trial Feb. 8 on murder charges.

Both are from Rochester and both had lengthy records of juvenile violence, Chiari said.

That shouldn't have been a secret to New Directions, said Edward Borges, spokesman for the state Office of Children and Family Services. "New Directions would get the entire file on a client," he said.

Chiari said his questions to New Directions would be, "What information did the state give you? Did they give you any indication these two individuals were dangerous? Was that passed on to your counselors?"

"Ongoing legal proceedings are something we choose not to comment on," said Brad Sande, New Directions' director of development.

Chiari said he can't sue New Directions directly because of state workers' compensation law, so he plans to sue the state. He said the state has the right to sue New Directions in a third-party action if it wants.

Chiari said the law doesn't allow him to place a dollar figure for damages in his lawsuit, but he said, "It'll definitely be significant."

He said Greco's death was rooted in policy changes that were instituted starting in 2007 by Gladys Carrion, state commissioner of children and family services, who de-emphasized placing youths in secure facilities, favoring community-based housing.

Her policy has been criticized harshly by the leaders of the state's two largest public employee unions and by politicians such as State Sen. Catharine M. Young, R-Olean.

"You had individuals who were dangerous put in unsecured facilities," Chiari said.

The lawsuit is to be filed on behalf of Greco's brother Anthony Greco, the executor of her estate.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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