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2 sentenced in death of disabled man

FRANKFORT — Two men were sentenced earlier this week in the death of a 25-year-old man with cerebral palsy who died after one of the men sat on him for more than 30 minutes.

Matthew Bortles, 21, of Soldier was sentenced Monday to eight years in prison. He had pleaded guilty in March to intentional abuse of a vulnerable adult and tampering with physical evidence.

Michael Price was a client at Community Presence, a residential home for people with mental disabilities, at the time of his death on Oct. 14, 2007. According to Attorney General Jack Conway's office, Bortles lay on Price's back for more than 30 minutes. Price stopped breathing and later died.

Also charged in Price's death was Branden Starostka, 23, of Grayson in Carter County. Starostka was sentenced to five years Monday for wanton abuse of a vulnerable adult and tampering with physical evidence.

Starostka did not intervene and reportedly watched television while Bortles held Price to the floor. After Price died, Starostka and Bortles tried to hide evidence by cleaning up Price's blood, concealing a bloody pillow and placing a bloody washcloth in the washing machine.

The use of prone restraint, holding someone down on their stomach, has been banned in community-based homes such as Community Presence since 2005. A Herald-Leader review of deaths in community-based homes in 2007 found that at least two other people besides Price have died because of prone restraint.

Seven other people have been indicted in other abuses or problems at Community Presence, which has since closed. They are scheduled to go on trial July 21 in Carter Circuit Court, according to the attorney general's office.