APHSA would like to honor these fallen heroes who gave their lives while serving others during their work in the public human service field. They deserve our recognition and gratitude.

APHSA would like to serve as the custodian of information of public human service workers who die in the line of duty. Please contact Tracy Wareing at tracy.wareing@aphsa.org if you have such information.


Jerry W. Friedman, 1947-2015


The American Public Human Services Association learned with great sorrow of the passing on March 25 of Jerry W. Friedman, who died after a brief illness at his home in Austin, Texas. APHSA and the entire public human services community have lost a dedicated and passionate leader and friend. Jerry was APHSA’s executive director from 2001 to 2010. He had served for 31 years prior to that time in a number of human services leadership positions around the country, and was employed by Accenture as Director of Strategic Initiatives at the time of his death.


Jerry was surely one of the best-known figures of our time in the public human services sector. Beyond his impressive professional record, Jerry was active with a number of nonprofit associations and personal pursuits that reflected his commitment to bettering the lives of both administrators and those they serve. Jerry was also someone who never met a stranger and always had a kind and personal word for everyone he knew.


Jerry’s career before APHSA included director or deputy director positions in Texas, Washington State, Pennsylvania, and two Pennsylvania counties. While at APHSA, he led the Association through many dramatic changes in the field, including the deep recession late in his tenure that has had lasting impacts on public funding and public perceptions of the role of government. In recognition of both his leadership at APHSA and his extensive prior career, the Association presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. After Jerry moved to Accenture, he continued his active involvement with and strong commitment to APHSA in many ways, and was a familiar face at APHSA conferences and other events. He also helped established the annual Harvard Human Services Summit, in which APHSA plays a significant role.


Jerry leaves a void in our work and in our hearts, but his legacy in building a better and more effective human services system is secure. APHSA will announce plans in the near future to further honor Jerry’s contributions to APHSA and to the field.


A celebration of life services Saturday, March 28, at 2:00 pm CT at Cook-Walden Chapel of the Hill Funeral Home in Austin. The family suggests that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent in Jerry’s honor to NEW: PATHS, the National Eligibility Workers Association, P.O. Box 243466, Anchorage, AK 99524-3466.



2015 - Vermont
Lara Sobel

Social Worker

Lara Sobel, a Long Island native who taught Israeli dance in her spare time, was a social worker committed to helping Vermont families in need for the past 14 years. As Sobel left her office at the Vermont Department for Children and Families, she was shot and killed in the parking lot by a client who had recently lost custody of her child. Sobel’s surviving immediate family members include her parents, her spouse and two young daughters. Sobel’s father said his daughter “went to work every morning because she cared about children. Social workers want to help families, not harm them.”




2009 - New York
Lakisha Scriven
Case Worker


Lakisha Scriven was a caseworker for New York City’s child welfare agency, a job known for its grinding stress, high turnover and power to make anyone cynical. For four years, her days were spent investigating reports of abuse and neglect, calming angry parents, testifying before judges and, most painfully, removing children from their homes. She was killed outside her home in the Bronx, shot once in the back of the head as she loaded her two young daughters into their car for school. The police have not named any suspects.



2008 - Massachusetts

Diruhi Mattian 


Mattian, a psychotherapist from Wilmington, was the program director for the Lawrence FLEX program, which provides services to families with children with chronic mental illnesses and requiring intensive therapeutic involvement. According to police, Diruhi Mattian, 53, was stabbed to death by her teenage client, Thomas Belanger, 18, during a visit to his apartment. He then turned the knife on himself and slit his throat, police said.





2006 - Kentucky
Boni Frederick 
Social Service Aide


On Oct. 16, 2006, Boni Frederick, a social service aide in western Kentucky, was murdered while supervising a home visit with an infant. The killing sent shock waves through the community and the agency.






2005 - Illinois
Marilyn Bethell 
Substance Abuse Counselor


Marilyn Bethell had wanted to be a substance abuse counselor for years. Just as she was getting the chance to live her dream, she disappeared. Police say they suspect foul play after a bizarre crash involving her car and two armed men, after which it was revealed that Bethell was missing. Bethell graduated from the College of DuPage with an associate degree in applied science, specifically addiction counseling.



2005 - Washington
Marty Smith 
Crisis Responder


In 2005, Marty Smith, 46, a Washington state crisis responder for the state mental-health system, was checking on a schizophrenic client whose mother had called to say he wasn’t taking his medications. Instead of consenting to hospitalization, Larry Clark attacked Smith with his fists and then a carving knife as Clark’s mother screamed for help outside. Smith died in Clark’s dining room. He is the first designated mental-health professional to die on the job in Washington since 1987.




2004 - Kansas
Teri Zenner 
Social Worker


Teri Zenner, while visiting a 17-year-old client, Andrew Ellmaker, at his home, was stabbed to death. Ellmaker was charged with her death. Zenner’s slaying validated her husband’s concerns and those of many of the 320,000 licensed social workers nationwide who frequently venture into the homes of clients in hopes of getting the clients’ lives back on track. 




1999 - Wisconsin
Carlos Hernandez 
Social Development Commission Youth Outreach Worker


Carlos Hernandez, a Social Development Commission youth outreach worker, was killed outside an SDC office by a masked gunman.




1999 - Ohio
Nancy Fitzgivens 
Social Worker


For her entire life, Nancy Fitzgivens dreamed of becoming a social worker. Marriage and three children delayed but did not deter her dream. At age 50, she obtained her degree, concluding a 10-year educational journey. In 1999, she became a social worker at the Franklin County Children Services to do child protection work. On Oct. 16, 2001, she died after she was attacked while making a home visit. Fitzgivens was honored by a scholarship in her memory for a social work student at Ohio State University, by donations given to Children Services for its Holiday Wish Program, by a memory quilt signed by her colleagues and friends, and by various plaques and other tributes.




1998 - Michigan
Lisa Putman 
Child Protective Services Worker


Child Protective Services worker Lisa Renee Putman was killed during a home visit in May 1998 in Macomb County.








1998 - Connecticut
Donna Millette-Fridge

Donna Millette-Fridge, 36, had recently received her master’s degree from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work in West Hartford. While walking to work at a community mental health outreach program on Sept. 22, 1998, she was stabbed by a client.



1997 - Indiana
Steve Tielker 
Family and Children’s Services Supervisor


Steve Tielker, a Family and Children’s Services supervisor, counseled both victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse. He was counseling a client on probation for child molestation under court order on April 28, 1997, when that client shot him. The client also fatally shot a probation officer before taking his own life.



1996 - Massachusetts
Linda Silva
Social Worker


Linda Silva, a social worker with the state Department of Social Services, had been assigned to investigate the case of Paul Dubois, who, after years of fighting in Barnstable Probate Court, called DSS to make complaints about his ex-wife's parenting of their two children. She was gunned down on Sept. 12, 1996, in a parking lot in Provincetown. The 6 1/2-year search for her shooter came to an end when 39-year-old construction worker DuBois was arrested in Branson, Mo.  


1996 - South Carolina
Josie Curry
Michael Gregory
Jimmy Riddle 
Case Workers


The three case workers were killed on Sept. 16, 1996, at the North Augusta office of the Aiken County Department of Social Services. Police say David Mark Hill walked into the office armed with a semi-automatic handgun and shot them, upset that his children were being put into foster care.



1993 - Michigan
Rebecca Binkowski
Resident Manager


Rebecca Binkowski, a graduate student at Western Michigan University, was awarded her master’s degree in social work posthumously. She was stabbed in her car on Feb. 3, 1993, by a tenant at an apartment complex for persons with mental illness, where she worked as a resident manager.



1993 - Michigan
Barbara Synnestvedt


Barbara Synnestvedt worked at the W.J. Maxey Training School. She was beaten and strangled by a teenage inmate and sex offender at a juvenile detention center on April 25, 1993.



1992 - New York
Florence A. Pike
Denise Van Amburg
Nancy Wheeler
Phyllis Caslin


The four women and their killer died when 50-year-old John T. Miller walked into the Schuyler County offices. For 26 years, he had denied paternity of a daughter born to a former girlfriend in his hometown, nearby Montour Falls. Through four arrests and two six-month jail terms for failure to pay child support, and a life apparently spent evading Schuyler County authorities, he refused to pay. When $51 was garnisheed from his paycheck on Oct. 5, he told co-workers at the trucking company in a Cleveland suburb where he worked as a driver that he was leaving for New York to “settle the matter.” He shot one woman after the other, pausing once to tell a woman working in a nearby office that she could leave. Then he held the gun to his right temple and pulled the trigger.


1991 - Maryland
Tanja Brown-O'Neil 
Social Worker


In June 1991, Tanja Brown-O'Neil, 29, a Baltimore social service worker, was stabbed to death at her workplace by a man who was apparently furious at not receiving his food stamps.




1989 - California
Robbyn Panitch
Psychiatric Social Worker


Robbyn Panitch, 36, a psychiatric social worker fromLos Angeles County, was counseling a client at a Santa Monica health clinic. In this county Health Department office, her deranged client, a psychotic Air Force veteran, stabbed her to death on Feb. 21, 1989.



1988 - Pennsylvania
Linda Rosen 
Hospital Caseworker


In a psychiatric emergency waiting room at the St. Francis Medical Center in Pittsburgh, Linda Rosen, age 27, a hospital caseworker, was interviewing Edith Anderson to determine if she needed psychiatric help. Anderson suddenly pulled out a gun. Rosen immediately turned and ran, calling for security guards. At that point Anderson began shooting. After killing Rosen she took three hostages.  Following negotiations, the hostages were released and Anderson was taken into custody.



1988 - West Virginia
Ladonna Wolford

At a shelter for runaways, in July 1988, two teenagers beat Ladonna Wolford to death with a baseball bat.




1987 - Kentucky
Paul T. Grannis 
Social Worker


In 1987 Paul Grannis was a social worker in northeastern Kentucky. After a removal of an adolescent, the client’s father shot him to death.




1987 - Washington
Norman W. Fournier
Social Worker


Norman W. Fournier, a social worker for 25 years, served as a mental health coordinator for Pierce County. He was shot by a client whom he went to pick up on an involuntary commitment order on Aug. 4, 1987.




1964 - Mississippi

Michael Schwerner
Social Work Student


Schwerner, 24, a New York native and social work student, went to Mississippi in January 1964 with his wife, Rita, after having been hired as a field worker for the Congress for Racial Equality. He became the first white civil rights worker to be permanently based outside of the capital of Jackson. Schwerner and fellow civil rights workers Andrew Goodman and James Chaney had gone to Mississippi during Freedom Summer to investigate the burning of a church. They were found shot to death in a dam on Aug. 4, 1964.



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