James Hillman, DYS youth worker attacked by juvenile, dies

Homicide investigation ongoing

AN EMPLOYEE WHO worked at a residence for juvenile offenders in Springfield has died weeks after he was attacked by a juvenile who lived there.

The employee was identified by the Hampden District Attorney’s office as 60-year-old James Hillman of Springfield.

The 16-year-old juvenile is in a secure facility run by the Department of Youth Services and has not yet been identified. According to District Attorney Anthony Gulluni’s office, there is an ongoing homicide investigation, but charges have not yet been filed.

According to Gulluni’s office, the Springfield police were called to the DYS residence on Tinkham Road after a staff member was assaulted by a juvenile resident. Medical staff at the facility had begun providing aid while staff called 911. Paramedics arrived and transported Hillman to Baystate Medical Center for treatment. Hillman was employed by the Center for Human Development, a Springfield-based human services agency that ran the facility.

Law enforcement have not provided any details of the attack, but two people with knowledge of the incident said the boy choked Hillman.

The Center for Human Development declined to comment further on the case on Tuesday. A spokesman previously told CommonWealth the agency was cooperating with law enforcement. The Department of Youth Services also declined to comment, referring questions to the Hampden County District Attorney.

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Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

The death could bring enhanced scrutiny on safety conditions at facilities operated by the Department of Youth Services, which has custody of youth ages 12 to 21 who are awaiting trial or have committed a serious criminal offense.

Jim Durkin, legislative director of AFSCME Council 93, which represents DYS workers (although not Hillman), told CommonWealth earlier this month that he is unaware of any deaths of youth services workers due to on-the-job assaults. But a DYS Safety Task Force report issued in 2018 found that youth-on-staff assaults were common and ranged from a low of 13 to a high of 30 each quarter between 2014 and 2017.