David Cains (left) with sister Christine McAuliffe. Cains died at the Booneville Human Development Center in June 2020.

The sister of a man who died at the Booneville Human Development Center after being physically restrained and then choking to death plans to file a lawsuit today. Christine McAuliffe is seeking a $7 million claim against the Arkansas Department of Human Services for the death of David Cains, who died in June 2020.

Cains was diagnosed with severe intellectual disability, and had lived at the Booneville facility for 13 years.


Attorney Joshua Gillispie plans a press conference about the case today. In a release, Gillispie noted the Booneville Human Development Center has a history of injury and death of residents related to the use of physical restraint.

According to McAuliffe, and an independent investigation conducted by Disability Rights Arkansas, David aspirated and choked to death after being taken to the ground in a physical restraint performed by three BHDC staff members. They held him pinned to the ground – one held his arms, one his ankles, and the other his head – while he vomited and choked to death, only stopping when he defecated, turned purple, and stopped breathing. This physical restraint was performed in response to a temper tantrum shortly after lunch. One staff member claims David attempted to hit him.

The nonprofit advocacy group Disability Rights Arkansas investigated Cains’ death and faulted staff for failing to use less intrusive methods to calm him. Their use of physical restraint “either directly or indirectly led to David’s death,” they said in their report.