Janice M. Cooper: Group home caregiver charged with murder of James Zito

Victim, 52, had Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy

MOUNT HEALTHY, Ohio – A group home caregiver faces a murder charge in the beating death of a 52-year-old resident with Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy last November.

Janice M. Cooper, 55, is also charged with voluntary manslaughter and felonious assault. She faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted of all charges, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said Thursday.

Cooper is accused of killing James Zito at the group home in the 7800 block of Affinity Place in Mount Healthy. The home is managed by Takoda Trails, based in Fairfield, Ohio, Deters said.

Zito couldn't speak and functioned at a 2-year-old's level, Deters said. 

“Killing him is like killing a child," Deters said.

The Hamilton County coroner ruled that Zito died as a result of blunt force trauma.

Cooper, a Residential Specialist I care provider, was the only employee working in the group home from approximately 11 p.m. on Nov. 17 until Cooper called 911 at approximately 6 a.m. on Nov. 18, Deters said. 

Cooper reported that a patient was having difficulty breathing, that his eyelids were swollen and purple, and that he was in and out of consciousness. The Mount Healthy Fire Department transported Zito to Mercy West Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The Mount Healthy Police Department referred the matter to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and its Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI). BCI conducted the investigation.

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