Caretaker abuse case moves to trial: Garritson, McDuffie charged with willful cruelty of dependent

Cases to be tried separately

VISTA, Calif. - Two caretakers accused of repeatedly abusing a 23-year-old severely autistic man in his Valley Center home must stand trial on multiple charges of willful cruelty to a dependent adult, a judge ruled Friday.

Matthew Alexander McDuffie, 28, and Michael Dale Garritson, 61, face nine years each in state prison if convicted, according to Deputy District Attorney Natalie Villaflor.

After a preliminary hearing that lasted parts of two days, Vista Judge Tamila Ipema found that enough evidence was presented for the defendants to stand trial.

McDuffie, a medical assistant, and Garritson, a licensed registered nurse, were taken into custody Sept. 19 after the victim's family handed investigators more than 2,000 individual video recordings of the alleged abuse, according to San Diego County sheriff's Sgt. Mark Varnau.

Over a three-week period in August, the family set up a surveillance video system in the victim's bedroom. The victim is severely autistic and does not speak, according to Varnau.

McDuffie and Garritson worked for the victim's family for more than two years, Varnau said.

The defendants will be back in court Jan. 8 for a readiness conference. Garritson's trial was set for Feb. 14. McDuffie had his trial set for Feb. 28.

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