Teens Acquitted in Pudding Puzzler When Culprit Comes Clean

Brandon is amused by a witness's statement.

Jurors were just about to deliver their verdict when a cry of “Wait! Wait! I have evidence!” rang through the courtroom.

Crystal Anderson, food production manager at St. Mary’s Home, had something important to show Judge Mercedez, the jurors and spectators: a video from the crime scene that would prove the innocence of defendants Brandon, Nathaniel G. and Patricia and bring the case of the purloined pudding to a dramatic close.

The trial was the culmination of a school exercise that helped St. Mary’s students in the classrooms of teachers Erin Keech, Kim Curll and Nichole Watson practice the writing process during the month of January.

The students were given a fictional scenario: The children and young adults who live at St. Mary’s were getting ready for bed when suddenly, there was a loud crash. Staff ran to the Atrium to investigate and found brown tracks, a tray from the kitchen and some empty chocolate pudding containers on the floor. Following the tracks, they discovered a few more empty pudding containers and a small cup that used to be filled with milk.

Isaiah's witness statement.

The students were assigned roles based on the scenario and given tasks, such as writing witness statements. The exercise taught them to select a topic or event and use drawing, dictating or writing to compose a message about it, use technology to produce and publish writing, and select a text and write an opinion about it, incorporating one reason to support the opinion.

Then, on Jan. 31, students and staff assembled in St. Mary’s Atrium (also known as District Superior Court). Students whose disabilities make it difficult for them to speak pressed buttons on their communication devices to play recordings of their written statements. Occasionally, the judge had to press her own device to admonish the crowd: “Order in the court!”

Carrington, a star witness for the prosecution, pointed out that Brandon had been on his way to get some pudding for Amelia. But defense witness Koko countered that Brandon would not steal chocolate pudding because his favorite flavor is vanilla. Isaiah added that Brandon is too noisy to be a thief, and then, with a big smile, joked, “I am guilty,” causing the courtroom to erupt into laughter.

Nathaniel G. observes the proceedings.

Brandon suggested that Isaiah actually did take the pudding because he saw chocolate pudding on Isaiah’s sneakers, while Nathaniel defended himself by explaining that he was asleep when the pudding went missing. Patricia was unable to attend the trial and therefore was tried in absentia.

So, whodunnit?

The jurors, including Terry Lyle, principal of the school at St. Mary’s, needed only a few minutes to deliberate. But before they could announce their decision, Anderson ran to the front of the courtroom with her surprise evidence. The video showed Anderson pushing a food cart into the Atrium, accidentally knocking some pudding onto the floor, then scurrying off when an announcement summons her to another part of the building.

Crystal Anderson, who manages the kitchen at St. Mary's, had a confession.

“I was so busy rushing around that day … that I dropped the pudding,” Anderson told the court, adding, “Thanks for taking the rap for me, Isaiah.”


See more photos from the court proceedings on St. Mary’s Facebook page.

Learn more about the school program at St. Mary’s here.

St. Mary’s Holds Prom with Help from Norfolk Academy

Music blared and smiles abounded on Sunday, April 29, 2012, as residents at St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children danced the afternoon away at prom, with a little help from their friends.

In what has become an annual tradition, students from Norfolk Academy decorated St. Mary’s Atrium and also served as dates for the young adults at St. Mary’s. The Auxiliary Board of St. Mary’s Home provided dresses, tuxes and flowers. A volunteer, Michelle Gabriele, came in to professionally apply the girls’ makeup. St. Mary’s staff and family members of the residents fixed the girls’ hair and helped the girls and boys get dressed for the big dance. Brandon Sutton, a licensed practical nurse at St. Mary’s, acted as DJ.

Koko was voted Prom Queen, and her good friend Brandon was voted Prom King. On hand to crown Brandon was Tiana Smith, a direct support professional at St. Mary’s. Brandon had asked Tiana to accompany him to prom. Brandon cannot speak but, during the dance, he used his computerized communication device to type out a message to Tiana: “I love you.”

You can see more photos from prom on our Facebook page.


Brandon and Carrington’s Weekend Adventure

Brandon and Carrington, two children from St. Mary’s Home, joined Team Hoyt VB for a trip this past weekend to Holland, Mass., where father-and-son athlete team Dick and Rick Hoyt live. 

The group of 96 athletes, participants, family and friends traveled from Hampton Roads by plane, car and RV and enjoyed a cookout on Saturday at the Hoyts’ home – complete with rides for everyone who wanted to go on Dick Hoyt’s boat for a spin around the lake. They also ran the Holland Elementary School 5K on Sunday morning and celebrated afterward at Team Hoyt’s Finish Line restaurant. 

Team Hoyt VB is a local offshoot of Team Hoyt, which strives to help people with physical disabilities become active members of the community. Dick Hoyt and his son compete together in marathons and triathlons nationwide. Members of Team Hoyt VB have pushed children and young adults in St. Mary’s annual 5K, among other races. 

Check out St. Mary’s Facebook page for more photos from the weekend trip. 

Army Instructors Have Lots to Teach About Generosity

From left, Staff Sgt. Everett Colby, Brandon, Sgt. First Class Justin Hanson and Staff Sgt. Donovan Cooper in the lobby of St. Mary’s Home. 

About 20 helicopter mechanics instructors stationed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis on the Peninsula donated Christmas presents to the children and young adults who live at St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children in Norfolk. Three of the instructors delivered the presents to the Home on Dec. 17 and took a tour of the facility.


They also presented 15-year-old Brandon, one of more than 80 children and young adults who live at the Home, with a commemorative coin representing their unit. The instructors are with the U.S. Army Aviation Logistics School, a tenant activity at the base.

You Can Help the Charity House Help the Children of St. Mary’s Home

A letter from our CEO … 

Dear Friends,

I am writing to you today on behalf of some of Virginia’s most medically fragile children. You can help improve the lives of the nearly 90 children and young adults who live, go to school and receive around-the-clock care at St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children in Norfolk.

This summer, Scott Crumley of Crumley Group, Inc., is building the Tidewater Builders Association’s  Charity House for the 2010 Fall Homearama in Norfolk’s East Beach community. All proceeds from the sale of the house will go to St. Mary’s Home, a nonprofit organization that has been caring for children for 65 years.

Your donation of services, material, furnishings or equipment will help offset the cost of building the Charity House. That means more money from the sale of the beautiful Charity House will go to the children, to make their home at St. Mary’s more beautiful, more inviting and more personal.

For Greg, at left, we’ll redecorate his bedroom to reflect his love of cars and also get him involved in car club activities in the community.

For Brandon, right, who tries so hard to communicate but can’t verbalize, we’ll provide advanced technology devices he can use to express his likes and dislikes so we can honor his wishes.

Every child at St. Mary’s has a unique wish that your donation can help fulfill.

St. Mary’s is honored to have been chosen for the first time to benefit from the Homearama Charity House. We are grateful to St. Mary’s Trustee Vince Napolitano for nominating us, to Tidewater Builders Association for selecting us and to the Crumley family for supporting us with their hard work and generosity.

Your support of the Fall Homearama Charity House will build a strong foundation for children with severe disabilities to have happy lives and achieve their fullest potential. To help, contact Jill Woolard of Crumley Group at 428-5252. Thank you.



William C. Giermak

(Not So) Lazy Days of Summer

Recreational therapy assistant Mary Eckstein helps Bryan float in St. Mary’s therapy pool.

Twins Brandon and Bryan got a treat today: They spent part of the morning in the pool. The 20-month-old boys arrived at St. Mary’s Home not too long ago for respite, or short-stay, care, and this was the first time they got to go for a dip in the comfortably heated water.

Bryan’s twin, Brandon, with Kathryn Simmons, recreational therapy support specialist. 

While getting in the water is a lot of fun, it’s also therapy. “We are working on their range of motion and sensory stimulation by providing them an experience they don’t typically get,” said Kathryn Simmons, recreational therapy support specialist. “The warm water in the therapy pool helps them loosen up their muscles. That way they can have a greater range of motion in their extremities.”

Mary Eckstein and Colton. 

The pool isn’t just for the littlest children at St. Mary’s Home. Colton, 17, also had the chance to splash around today. And staff of the evening activities and recreational and physical therapy departments frequently work with other children in the pool.

UPDATE: Here’s a video from today’s pool session:

A Smashing Good Time

Stephanie Bailey, early intervention technician, left, and Nicole Hoskins Jones, director of recreational therapy, help 20-month-old Bryan create a painting by rolling a rubber ball over a piece of paper covering another piece of paper that was splattered with paint. The activity helps Bryan improve his range of motion. Plus, it’s a lot of fun. 

“How about yellow?” Nicole Hoskins Jones, St. Mary’s director of recreational therapy, asked as she held up a brightly colored bottle of paint.  

“No,” 9-year-old Carrington replied.

“Green?” Jones asked next. 




“Do you like pink?” 

“Yeah!” said Carrington, who then also gave her approval to blue. 

Her colors chosen, Carrington was ready to begin the task at hand: Creating “smash” paintings for potential display at the Fall 2010 Homearama Charity House. Profits from the sale of the house will benefit Carrington and more than 80 other children and young adults who live at St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children.

Twins Brandon and Bryan, 20 months, joined in the fun as first-time Homearamabuilder Scott Crumley visited St. Mary’s today to display the model of his Homearama entry — the Spanish Colonial-style home called “Santa Maria” — and chat with media representatives about the project. The 2,800-square-foot home will feature a courtyard with a pool and outdoor fireplace. 

“The proceeds from the beautiful home Scott is going to build are going to be used to make St. Mary’s Home more beautiful,” said William C. Giermak, St. Mary’s CEO. St. Mary’s will use the funds to redecorate and personalize the children’s bedrooms to make them more inviting and homelike.

William C. Giermak, CEO of St. Mary’s Home, left, and builder Scott Crumley with the model of the Charity House. 
Crumley Group, Inc. needs help from suppliers and subcontractors. To donate materials or labor, contact Jill Woolard, who is following the Charity House project on the Crumley Group blog.\

Read more about today’s event at the blog of The Tidewater Builders Association. Watch a video here: