Brittany A. Legler
March 15, 1989 - May 9, 2004
Find A Grave Memorial

For the last year of her life, Brittany Legler was being abused and while people tried to report the abuse and get this Angel some help, their attempts failed. A record was kept, by officials of the Millcreek Township School District, of all of the signs of abuse and injuries that seemed to always be part of Brittany's life. The Erie County Office Of Children And Youth was notified of their suspicions of abuse starting in April of 2003.

In August of 2003, Brittany is enrolled in and attends her first classes and due to having a mental disability, she is enrolled in what is called "Life Skills Classes". In October, Lisa Larussi, Brittany's mother by adoption, sent a note to Karen Halmi, the Special Education teacher:

"In regards to Brittany, the only time I would like her to go to the nurse if she is complaining
of wanting to vomit or has a very high temp. Brittany likes to go to the nurse for attention.
P.S. I as her mother know her and would greatly appreciate respect for my wishes"

In November, a teacher's Aide contacted Office Of Children And Youth at least four times to report injuries on Brittany's body and by the beginning of December, Brittany started missing school for what were called excused absences. Since Brittany had missed 18 days of the 82 days of school so far, Lisa was told by Karen that a Doctor's note would be needed if she was going to be absent in the future. After Christmas break, Brittany returned to school with a bruise under her left eye and it appeared that she had a hemorrhage in another sport along with a small cut on the back of her head, Brittany also looked very thin. When the school called Lisa to find out what happened, Lisa gave the oldest excuse in the book and said that Brittany had fell while she was playing. At the schools insistence, Lisa picked up Brittany and took her to the Doctor where she was treated for a chronic lip infection, with antibiotics.

Later in January, OCY was called again by an anonymous caller who stated concerns about injuries Brittany had. Nancy Carlson, the school nurse met with Lisa and Lisa accused a nurse of hitting Brittany and said that another child had punched her. More calls were made to OCY and Lisa made a call to Nancy telling her that she thinks that the calls to OCY are harassment. Lisa tried to file harassment charges, but was not successful. Brittany was getting ready to go to swimming lessons and bruises were noticed on her body, the nurse was called in and the bruises were recorded. It was decided that any bruises on Brittany would always be written down.

Lisa is once again called and she says the bruising is because Brittany has a blood disorder and was anemic. Lisa agreed to allow Nancy to see Brittany's medical records and after checking them out, no blood disorder information is ever found in the records. Brittany continued to attend school with bruises. In February, Brittany is at school but without providing a reason she didn't want to go to swimming lessons, the next day, Lisa claimed that someone had thrown a pencil at Brittany's eye and she was upset that the school had not told her about the alleged incident:

"Every time Brittany gets a little mark on her the school is constantly calling me and questioning
me. Well now I want to know what's happening in my daughter's class. When I sent her to school
  Thursday morning that was not in her eye. I know accidents can happen but this wasn't an accident
and we at home here do not want to be accused and Brittany isn't making it up because the proof
is in her eye"

I have to wonder why it is that with so many complaints, this child was never spoken to by OCY or asked what was going on in her home. OCY workers said there was an open case, but it doesn't seem to appear that they ever talked to Brittany to get her side of what was going on. Brittany would either be absent or refuse to go to swimming lessons on the scheduled days. The staff notices that at times, Brittany would be wearing a lot of make up and they OCY is called with suspicions that make up is being applied to hide bruises. Brittany continues to be absent and when she returns to school after Spring Break, Lisa is upset saying that she doesn't like the staff at the school questioning her daughter about how she is treated at home and she claimed that OCY told her there was nothing to be concerned about. In April Brittany was taken to the E.R. with a badly cut lip and Lisa and Linda Fisher, a woman who lives in the home, say she fell off of her bike.

Apparently there was MUCH to be concerned about, because on May 9, 2004, Paramedics were called to Lisa's house at 5:42 p.m. and were told that a child had fallen, what they found was that Brittany was unconscious and in cardiac arrest and she was covered with bruises, she was transported to the hospital but she died about an hour after arriving. An autopsy was done and Coroner Lyell Cook said:

"The stress of the brutality and the threat of physical abuse coupled with Legler's congenital
heart defect caused her to suffer a fatal heart attack on May 9"

Brittany's death was ruled a homicide. Lisa M. Larussi was arrested and charged with manslaughter and Linda Fisher is also arrested for endangering the welfare of a child because she also beat Brittany. Brittany was beaten with a hair brush and she had over 200 bruises and marks all over her body. District Attorney Brad Foulk said his office had been waiting to hear the results of the autopsy before charges would be made:

"This kind of case does not come along very often. It's going to take some time
to digest this"

Brittany was only 13 years old and with over 200 bruises, it was discovered that around 82 of them were fresh while the rest were in various stages indicating that they appeared to be as old as three weeks. Brittany had a broken rib that was healed, what is called "cauliflower ear" which she got from being hit repeatedly and her lips were so bad that the muscles were starting to degenerate. Brittany's case was said to the be the worst case of child abuse they had seen up to that point.

Linda Fisher told Police that right before Brittany had collapsed, she had been wrestling with her because Lisa wanted them to and any time they stopped, she would hit them both with a hair brush. Lisa was making bell noises to announce the rounds and then Brittany said "I'm tired", fell down and stopped breathing. Dr Eric Vey did the autopsy and in his report he said that her defective heart just couldn't take any more of the emotional and physical abuse, causing so much stress that her heart just died:

"But for the set of circumstances that existed at the time of her death, death would not have
occurred at that time"

In October of 2004, Lisa M. Larussi plead no contest to aggravate assault and endangering the welfare of a child, her sentence was a RIDICULOUS 14 years in prison. In January of 2005, Linda Fisher, having plead guilty to endangering the welfare of a child, was sentenced to only 23 months in prison and would be on probation for 13 months upon her release.

In March of 2011, U.S. District Judge Sean J. McLaughlin dismissed a lawsuit which had been filed on behalf of the estate of Brittany by the administrators of her estate, Charles and Victoria Hayes who were the legal guardians of Brittany's sister, Abby Larussi. The judge said:

"From a human perspective, this case is heart rending and will not soon be forgotten.
From a legal perspective, however, it is critical to acknowledge that the harm which
befell Brittany, and for which the plaintiffs now seek to recover, was inflicted by a
private individual. When a plaintiff seeks to hold Government actors responsible for
the alleged violation of federal constitutional rights arising out of harm caused by
private individuals, the law imposes a very stringent standard, permitting liability
only under limited circumstances which cannot reasonably be found to exist on
this record"

OCY had not been held responsible at all for leaving Brittany in that home even though there were MANY complaints and MANY opportunities to save her life. When people are doing what they are supposed to be doing, reporting child abuse and the people who are SUPPOSED to help that child do not help, then they SHOULD be held accountable when that child dies.

Of course the staff at OCY would do a review and try to figure out what could have been done differently, the same song and dance that has been going on for years. The people there OBVIOUSLY have no regard for the life of a child:

"This has been a very long journey for everyone involved. As you can see from Judge McLaughlin's
decision, there were many facts that Judge took into consideration and then he applied those facts
to the applicable law and reached what we believe is the correct decision. I think the Judge said it
best when he ruled Brittany Legler's death was a tragedy, but was inflicted by a private individual"
Amy Jones - OCY Solicitor

Well, Amy, of COURSE you feel he made the right decision. The incompetence and neglect of job duties of the people at OCY, caused this child to suffer and die. If someone had paid attention and talked TO Brittany instead of ABOUT her, her life could have been saved. But as long as you and your staff don't have to pay for what was done, then I guess you're okay with the outcome. You say it was a long journey for you , think about how long the journey was for Brittany while she was being beaten, abused and tortured and waiting for someone to come and help her!

This page was created on June 28, 2014
Death occurred in the state of Pennsylvania

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