Morass of misery in Rimer case includes glimmer of something hopeful

You had to search hard to find any admirable actions in the hundreds of pages of grand jury testimony that culminated in the indictment of Stan and Colleen Rimer.

But within the morass of misery detailed on those pages, I found a glimmer of something hopeful in the testimony of Nicole Atwell, a development specialist with Nevada Early Intervention Services, who tried to help teach Colleen how to care for Jason, starting when he was just 3 months old.

Atwell’s teachings didn’t seem to take, as evidenced by Jason’s death from heat stoke in June after being left for 17 hours in a family vehicle. That spawned charges of second-degree murder, child abuse and child neglect.

It wasn’t Atwell’s testimony that offered hope. That was grim stuff. It wasn’t even that she reported the family to Clark County Child Protective Services. What offered hope is that Atwell kept doing her job, entering a filthy home once a month for 18 months. Not sure I could have done it.

Jason qualified for free state help because he was born with a form of muscular dystrophy called myotonic dystrophy. Starting in June 2004, the state worker went to the home to help Jason develop skills and help his mom learn to help him. The state authorized home visits three times a month. But the family either canceled or adults weren’t there when she came, so it averaged once a month instead, she said.

Guess the Rimers didn’t see the benefits of making time for a free service to help their disabled child.

Atwell’s description of the home: Unsanitary. Smelly. “There were always flies in the house flying around, dog feces on the floor.”

Atwell brought her own blanket to sit on. She told Colleen Rimer it was a play blanket. “I didn’t want to hurt her feelings so I would put that on the floor before I would sit down.”

Colleen and the children, including Jason, were usually barefoot, so they walked through the dog and bird feces. Lice infestations were a recurring problem.

“Most of the time when I went to the home I would have to ask Colleen to change his diaper before we would play with him because it would be leaking or it would be full of feces. It would be yellow and soggy and it would slosh around, and there were times when it came out on us,” Atwell told the grand jurors.

Atwell said she had what she called “my Rimer jeans” and kept a change of clothing in her car and changed clothes at the office after visiting the Rimers. “I had an 18-month-old at home and I would not walk into my house with the clothes I had on in that house.”

Jason was fed through a G-tube inserted into his stomach, because feeding him through a bottle could be dangerous for him. Atwell told Colleen not to feed him with a bottle and said that when Colleen continued, she told her she would report her to Child Protective Services because of the danger that Jason might aspirate.

And she did. In December 2004, Atwell called Child Protective Services to report medical neglect of Jason.

She said she didn’t report the filth because she’d been to other dirty homes and Child Protective Services didn’t intervene.

For her efforts to help, she testified, Stan Rimer called her at her office and her home and threatened her, saying if she tried to destroy his family, he would destroy hers.

Without a doubt, the Rimer family has been destroyed. But not by Nicole Atwell and Nevada Early Intervention Services.

Mom and Dad must dangle on the hook for what occurred inside their home.

Stan Rimer, a general contractor and movie producer of sorts, tried to blame Jason’s death on his 19-year-old son, according to that son’s grand jury testimony. Rimer said that because of the teen’s bad habits, idleness, idolatry and obsession with video games, Jason died.

What kind of man would try to lay blame on one son for another son’s death?

An 18-year-old daughter told grand jurors she thought her mother “was overwhelmed and she didn’t want to be bothered.”

Sadly, with his medical needs, Jason was a bother.

Well, not anymore.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275.

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