Meet Stephanie Ross, 25, of Lakeland, Florida.
This beautiful and promising young woman is a service coordinator for Maryland-based Integra Health Management in September and wanted to help people with chronic illnesses. She had been on the job for about a month when she first visited Smith in Dade City, a small city about 30 miles north of Tampa.
But her encounter with Lucious Smith, 53, changed her career from service worker to angel.
On Monday, December 10th, Ross pulled up to the residence of Smith. Something that she had done many times before. But today was different. She even noted something that made her ‘very uncomfortable’ about the 53-year-old man, even writing in his file that two people should visit him in the future.
Though she felt uneasy, she still went about the job and ventured in.
Moments later, she was heard screaming, ‘Help me, help me, help me.’
One witness, Victoria Farkus, stated she initially thought her Chihuahua had bitten someone, but looked out her window and saw Smith chasing Ross.
Smith stabbed Ross several times, Farkus said, and a motorist who happened to be driving by saw her bleeding and drove her to the hospital. Ross died a short while later.
‘I’m still shook up,’ said Farkus, giving an uneasy glance at Smith’s apartment building. ‘I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get that out of my head.’
Smith just sat outside his apartment after the stabbing, she said, and a few minutes later, police arrived.
‘We knew right away that he was involved,’ Dade City police offier Brian Uppercue said. ‘She faced a real danger dealing with this man. He was a disagreeable guy.’
He served seven years in prison for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and was released in 2005. Smith lived in an apartment complex with other people who had disabilities.
‘This is an especially tragic loss,’ Dee Brown, Integra’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. ‘Stephanie joined Integra to improve the lives of disadvantaged people struggling in the community with chronic illnesses, and believed strongly in our mission and goals in serving these individuals.’
Brown told the Lakeland Ledger that Ross visited Smith four times. Brown told the newspaper Integra staff members are trained that if they are ever concerned for their safety, they can have other staff accompany them on their visits. Brown wouldn’t comment on Ross’ specific case.
Advocates have long pressed for better security measures for social workers and home health caseworkers who are frequently sent into potentially dangerous situations. Some note that social workers go into homes armed only with clipboards and laptops.
In 2004, Teri Zenner was fatally attacked with a knife and chain saw while visiting a client in Overland Park, Kan., to make sure he was taking his medication. The attacker was later convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. In 2010, the state’s governor signed a law requiring social workers to take six hours of safety awareness the first time they apply to have their license renewed.
In an email, Brown said the company was helping law enforcement.
‘We take the safety and well-being of our employees very seriously and are committed to assuring ongoing compliance with existing safety practices and incorporation of measures that might further reduce avoidable risk to our employees,’ Brown said.
It is unclear why Ross went on the visit by herself Monday, even after she had made a note that she felt “very uncomfortable” with Smith.
Smith is being held without bail at the Pasco County jail on a first-degree murder charge. It is unclear whether he has an attorney.
I hate to get political, but if the idiots in Washington DC hadn’t cut so many mental health programs, things like this wouldn’t happen.
Here in Georgia, well Atlanta, a person that has a mental condition is no longer facilitated.
They are either housed in a group home, neglected by family, homeless, or jailed.
The facilities here only keep a person for up to 30 days…No matter what.
Which puts every American citizen in danger.
And that’s just selfish and insane.
Rest In Paradise Stephanie…