Caregiver abandons man with autism in transport vehicle while exercising at LA Fitness

GAITHERSBURG, Md. (ABC7) - A craving to burn calories and crank up cardio has a caregiver doing a lot explaining to police, his employer and the family of a disabled man.

Franck Tedlor, 26, of the 3300 block of Hewitt Avenue in Aspen Hill is now facing one criminal count of vulnerable adult abuse-custodian.

Around 6:30 p.m. on August 13, Tedlor drove his nearly non-verbal male patient with autism to the LA Fitness located along the 600 block of Quince Orchard Road in Gaithersburg. Tedlor allegedly parked the transport vehicle behind the fitness center, turned off the ignition, rolled down the windows and told his patient to behave and stay in the vehicle. It was 99 degrees outside at the time.

Around 6:55 p.m. - some 25 minutes later - Tedlor returned to the car and saw it was empty. For nearly three hours, the caregiver carried out a private search, scouring the immediate area, including two shopping centers. He came up empty-handed. Around 9:52 p.m., Tedlor approached a strip mall security guard and reported the missing disabled man. That guard called 911 and reported the welfare emergency.

Montgomery County Police launched a search party that included a bloodhound and officer who specializes in search and rescue operations. Police quickly added the disabled man to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) - a digital database loaded with criminal justice information viewable by law enforcement agencies across the country.

Hours after vanishing, a search team member stumbled upon the disabled man wandering down a dark residential Montgomery Village street, more than four miles away from the LA Fitness where he first disappeared. Quite remarkably, the man was only blocks away from his home. Paramedics transported him to Shady Grove Hospital for observation. He was released hours later.

"For a situation where somebody is under your care, and under your protection, you need a little more empathy and more sympathy and more judgment," LA Fitness member Shabazz Novarra remarked. “It’s terrible.”

Tedlor was working for Montgomery Village-based Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children (CSAAC) at the time of the incident. Investigators say he’d been the man's primary caregiver for "several years" and was well versed with the patient’s behavioral plan. That plan included 24/7 monitoring because the disabled man is prone to "aggressive outbursts.”

According to police, CSAAC had previously reprimanded Tedlor for abandoning the same male patient. Why the non-profit agency kept him on staff is not immediately known. ABC7 placed multiple calls and emails with members of the CSAAC executive team on Monday, but as of this writing, no one from the agency had responded to our inquiries.

“It seems to me there is liability on the company’s side, but that’s for other people to determine,” LA Fitness member Jeff Hinman stated post-workout. “Nevertheless, I obviously think that’s pretty wrong.”

In 2014, Montgomery County Police arrested a 38-year-old CSAAC caregiver for allegedly grabbing a woman with autism by the shirt and pushing her into a bathroom stall. The caregiver was also accused of forcing the resident into a wall and clocking her in the head with her bare knuckles.

CSAAC, which was founded in 1979, describes itself online as, "a nationally recognized leader in developing state-of-the-art services for people with autism [that] serves as a model for other agencies." The private nonprofit, based in Montgomery County, serves roughly 300 families with some connection to autism.

According to court paperwork, Tedlor lives with his mother in a basic apartment complex near the corner of Georgia and Connecticut Avenues. The Cameroon-native marked that he earned $11 per hour while working as a caregiver. Tedlor and his public defender were unavailable for comment.

The 26-year-old caregiver has a three-day trial scheduled to begin this May in Montgomery County Circuit Court. He faces up to a five-year prison sentence and/or $5,000 in fines.

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