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Disabled man's death at center troubles brother

December 27, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Disabled man's death at center troubles brother



WILLIAMSPORT - When Ron Bittner thinks of his late brother Mark, it's not his limitations that come to mind but his sense of humor.

"He was funny. He had a spontaneous way of making you laugh," said Bittner of Williamsport.

Mark Bittner died last week after a struggle with employees at the Rosewood Center in Ownings Mills, Md., where he was a resident.

Rosewood is a residential treatment center for the mentally disabled.

Maryland State Police have said they were investigating his death but so far have found no evidence that Rosewood staff acted inappropriately. Autopsy results are due next week, officials have said.

Mark, of Falling Waters, W.Va., was once a healthy teenager who suffered from encephalitis, or swelling of the brain, after being bitten by a mosquito while on a fishing trip, his brother said.

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After spending three weeks in a coma, Mark, who was then 15, came out of the hospital having lost his short-term memory and suffering from seizures, said Bittner.

"He could remember his brothers and sisters and people he knew prior to the accident," said Bittner.

Bittner takes issue with a Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene spokeswoman who labeled his brother retarded.

"He was not retarded by any means," he said.

Mark, 30, had been a resident at Rosewood since 1991. Bittner said his brother was responding well to medication and was working toward moving into a group home.

Officials at Rosewood told Maryland State Police that Mark assaulted a staff member who was holding a door for him on the way to the gymnasium.

A struggle broke out and Mark lost consciousness while several staff members subdued him, state police said.

Bittner said he was confused when he heard his brother died after acting out because he had been doing so well.

His brother wasn't violent and often cuddled with his young nieces and nephews, he said.

Ron Bittner said he feels frustrated and without closure because he believes the whole story about Mark's death hasn't been told.

"He was on his way out of there. On his way to gaining some semblance of a life like you and I know and it was snatched away," said Bittner.

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