Second victim comes forward in caretaker alleged sex assault case

Willie Shorter booking photo
Posted at 4:46 PM, Feb 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-19 19:24:16-05

New details have been revealed in the case of a Brevard County caregiver arrested for impregnating an intellectually disabled woman from Sebastian.

A second victim has come forward, accusing the same man of sexual misconduct.

According to a lawsuit, the second victim, who is developmentally disabled, said she told police and her group home, she was inappropriately touched by Willie Shorter last year.

Her family says she was staying in the same group home as Shorter's alleged first victim.

The family says they reached out to police after seeing Dawn Blanchard come forward last week. Blanchard is a mentally disabled woman police say Willie Shorter impregnated while she was in his care at a Bridges group home in Rockledge, Florida.

According to police in Brevard County, it took four years to arrest Willie Shorter for that alleged crime. Police say when Dawn became pregnant, they wanted to test his DNA, because of his contact with her, and because she had named him, but there wasn't enough evidence to make him hand it over. In April 2018, Shorter did provide a DNA sample after Dawn reported he had touched her inappropriately again. That led to his arrest. The Blanchard family filed a lawsuit against Bridges.

In their lawsuit, the second victim and her family say Bridges also had a duty to protect their daughter. According to the lawsuit, they claim Bridges did not take action when made aware of the abuse in 2018.

Police told Contact 5 they are investigating this claim.

Last Friday, the Bridges board of directors suspended their CEO.

They would not comment on any pending litigation but gave us the following press release that was sent out at the time of the CEO's suspension.

Susan Stokes Elmore, chair of the Board of Directors, issued the following statement on behalf of the Bridges organization’s Board:

"Our overarching priority, each and every day, is the safety and well-being of all of the wonderful individuals in our care. We were shocked to learn that something so terrible could occur involving one of our residents – and we have grave concerns about lapses in leadership that significantly contributed to this regrettable tragedy."

"The Board is especially disheartened that critical information was intentionally withheld from us until only recently, even though it was determined four years ago that the resident had become pregnant. Similarly, the decision by our organization’s top leader to keep the employee on staff despite his possible role in the pregnancy, and the administration’s subsequent failure to keep Board members fully informed – almost until the employee’s arrest – is entirely unacceptable."

The Board of Directors announced these actions as a result:

• President and CEO David Cooke is suspended from all duties, effective immediately. This will enable the Board to carefully review all aspects of this case.

• Bridges will continue its full cooperation with appropriate law enforcement authorities as they investigate the case.

• Even while legal authorities pursue their investigation, Bridges is conducting our own comprehensive review and we have retained an outside expert legal team to gather all relevant facts and to provide a clear picture of events that led to this point.

• We have the highest regard for the dedicated men and women who work at Bridges’ facilities, and we will conduct additional training to provide them with an even deeper understanding of our paramount policies and procedures, to help them recommit to the highest standards of care.

• The Board will establish a blue-ribbon panel of outside experts to conduct a comprehensive review of Bridges policies, procedures, and protocols. This panel will be focused on helping to develop additional safeguards to ensure that an incident like this could never happen again. We also seek to vault our already strong professional standards to an even higher plane – to set the best practices for care in our field and the assured safety and well-being of all of our clients.