Florida juvenile justice administrators knew that Alleny Carbone was at risk of taking her own life: During at least a dozen stays in state custody, she had been placed on suicide alert.
Yet on the night when the 15-year-old fashioned her own sports bra into a makeshift noose at the Bradenton lockup, no one was watching.
Alleny’s dad, Victor Carbone, said he was told his daughter was under suicide watch at the state’s juvenile lockup. Department of Juvenile Justice administrators said Tuesday that Alleny "was not currently under suicide precautions."
Either way, it appears Alleny, who was in foster care, succumbed to her demons Sunday night — the culmination of a years-long battle with depression. By the time authorities discovered her body, in a sitting position, she was unresponsive.
The state Department of Juvenile Justice has confirmed only that a 15-year-old detainee at the Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center was “found unresponsive” during a 10-minute room check at 9:22 p.m. Twenty-eight minutes later, a report said, the girl was sent by ambulance to Manatee Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 10:03.
In a two-minute phone call between the lockup and Bradenton’s 911 center, a detention officer said the girl had tied what appeared to be a blanket around her neck, and was not conscious by the time officers came to revive her.
The Bradenton Police Department identified the girl and said her death remains under investigation. The department said Alleny's cause of death was strangulation, and that an autopsy showed the manner of death was consistent with suicide. Alleny had tied her sports bra around her neck, and apparently tethered it to an object within her cell. Though there is no evidence of foul play on the part of lockup staff, police said they have not yet ruled out negligence.
Detectives have secured surveillance video that shows Alleny walking into her cell; the video shows the girl in the moments before she hanged herself.
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Alleny, who is from Bartow in Polk County, becomes the 13th youth to die in DJJ custody under questionable circumstances since 2000. Among two deaths that year was 15-year-old Anthony Dumas of Broward County, who hanged himself at a DJJ-licensed youth shelter. A youth worker shot Polaroid pictures of Anthony rather than cut him down from his black leather belt, and he died on Oct. 14, 2000, after lingering in a coma. The deaths were documented in Fight Club, a Miami Herald series on violence, abuse and poor medical care in the Florida juvenile justice system
Alleny’s father, Victor Carbone, said he learned of his daughter’s death at lunchtime Monday — 12 hours later — from a child welfare caseworker. Carbone said he has yet to receive a phone call from the Department of Juvenile Justice, or any explanation of what went wrong.
A DJJ spokeswoman, Heather DiGiacomo, said her agency notified DCF, which was Alleny’s “legal guardian.” DCF “then makes the determination of notification. Had the parents been the legal guardians at the time of the tragedy, DJJ would have made that notification.”
“I would like to know very much what happened,” said Carbone. “Nobody else’s kid should have to go through this.
“I know the system is not perfect,” Carbone added, “but somebody dropped the ball somewhere.”
In recent photos on her Facebook page, Alleny wore her dark hair in a buzz cut, and often is seen with a small round post on the tip of her tongue. In a photo a year ago, Alleny sports fuzzy ears and a black nose like a cat. She is often pictured with flowers either draped around her neck, or superimposed onto the photo.
Alleny’s father said she liked to draw, and, when well, spoke of pursuing a career in graphic design. A couple of her sketches were posted to her Facebook page.
Alleny was taken into state care a few years ago, he said, when he was incarcerated, and his daughter went to live with her mother. The Department of Children & Families removed the girl from her mother’s home, citing both abuse and neglect, he said.
It appears that Alleny’s troubles with the law began in January of 2015, when she was charged with petty theft. Later that year, more arrests followed: in December, for both petty and grand theft, followed by a series of probation violations the following year.
Almost none of Alleny’s history was violent: She had been arrested twice, though prosecuted once, on battery charges. But mostly she had faced marijuana, drug paraphernalia and car theft charges, as well as scrapes that followed when she violated probation.
A brief statement from juvenile justice administrators said Alleny’s death was “due to self-harm behavior.” The agency said lockup staff “responded immediately and performed CPR while” first responders were summoned.
DiGiacomo said that at the time of the girl's death, the teen had not been placed under suicide watch — a procedure that includes ensuring a youth is under constant surveillance. DiGiacomo added: "Youth are continually observed for behaviors throughout their stay in detention that may necessitate subsequent referral to mental health professionals and reassignment to suicide precautions."
“Initial details surrounding this tragedy are still being investigated,” the agency said. “It is heartbreaking to learn of this unfortunate and sad tragedy, and we at DJJ send our heartfelt condolences to her family as we grieve with them.”
In addition to the Bradenton police, DJJ “is also conducting an immediate intensive review of actions taken by the department to ensure all policies and procedures were followed.”
Carbone said his daughter’s caseworker told him Monday the teen was on suicide watch. She had been found “in a sitting position.” Though the caseworker didn’t explicitly say so, Carbone said, he envisioned his daughter with a sheet or blanket wrapped around her neck.
“He was trying to not sound too hard,” Carbone said of the caseworker.
Alleny appears to have been on probation for car theft and marijuana charges when, last August, she was charged with battery and violating probation. In March, prosecutors filed an additional charge: escape. Alleny was at the Bradenton lockup awaiting a bed at a residential program when she was found unresponsive Sunday night.
Bradenton Herald staff writers Jessica DeLeon and Sara Nealeigh contributed to this report.