Since learning of a mysterious compound in the woods of Hayden, podcaster Josh Webb has been investigating to find out who lived there, what they were doing and why they left it abandoned.
Over the last several months, Webb has been chronicling his journey on his podcast "Why They Left," which recently released its fourth episode.
It began with a local rumor that doctors had performed experiments on children at the compound, which is how the area earned the name "The Devil's Playground." Webb discovered children's toys, prescription medication and personal documents at the site, all pointing to something strange, possibly nefarious, going on there.
Through talking with locals and researching information gleaned from those documents and records requests, Webb learned the building was likely used as a group home at one point run by four people: psychiatrists Marilyn Lachman and Charles McInteer, who were married, and Deiter and Anita Weiss. Anita Weiss was Lachman's sister. Webb referred to them in his podcast as "the family."
"I've wondered whether I just stumbled upon a big confused misunderstanding out in those woods," Webb said in that latest episode. "This new information about Charles made it more likely, to me at least, that there was something suspicious going on in that forest, not less."
Episode IV focused primarily on McInteer and how he continued to practice medicine illegally even after surrendering his medical license.
In 2005, McInteer was placed on probation for alleged sexual misconduct with a patient. To keep practicing, he was required to pay a $50,000 fine, undergo therapy, regularly report to a physician monitoring coordinator and have a female chaperone present when examining any female patient, according to a court consent order.
Less than two months later, Webb said the court issued a supplemental order requiring McInteer to provide any facility he works at with the original punishing document and list contact information for the female chaperones.
"The commission essentially doubled down on the accountability they imposed on McInteer whenever he was physically involved with a patient in any way," Webb explained.
However, in 2007, McInteer got his full license back and was no longer bound by the restraints of the consent order.
"It confuses me that McInteer's probation terms were effectively revoked in 2007 as if a little less than two years of good behavior means that he was back on the straight and narrow," Webb said on the podcast. "I'm speculating here, too, but Dr. McInteer did provide specialized care for elderly psychiatric patients. This fact, combined with the sexual misconduct charge, does not paint a pretty picture for me."
McInteer had restarted practicing medicine for a year when he was again accused of sexual misconduct. Rather than face a trial, he voluntarily surrendered his medical license, effectively ending his career in July 2008.
"Putting this in a different context, what McInteer did was the equivalent of a corporation paying out a settlement because they knew that going to trial and having the facts come out would heavily damage their reputation," Webb said. "...I can only imagine how bad the truth could be if he decided that his best move was to quit being a doctor forever rather than try his chances in court."
However, Webb soon discovered that McInteer's surrendering his license wasn't the end of his story.
The same month McInteer was first put on probation in 2005, his brother-in-law, Deiter Weiss, purchased the land for the compound in Hayden. A year prior, the family founded Anita's Homes LLC, group homes for residential care of mentally disabled adults.
"So this means that two doctors who were already in trouble with the law for supposedly exploiting their patients were now responsible for taking care of adults with mental disabilities," Webb said, referring to McInteer and Lachman, who were involved in a 2006 lawsuit for allegedly falsifying records and patient neglect.
Through a records request, Webb received documentation showing years of issues and potential violations at Anita's Homes, including the embezzlement of $18,000 by an employee who went on to start her own group homes. The document also said investigators found evidence of mismanagement of funds and patient neglect at the homes and ordered the issues to be addressed.
"Suddenly, I had all the evidence I needed that all had not been and was not well for the men and women in the care of Antia's group homes," Webb said on the podcast. "I can't fathom how the State allowed the company to continue operating for even a day longer after the State was aware that abuse, neglect, inadequate healthcare and financial exploitation were taking place."
That's when Webb learned that Anita's Homes had been decertified in May 2011 because, unbeknownst to the State, McInteer had been practicing medicine for the last three years.
"This means after Charles permanently surrendered his license in 2008 for his second sexual misconduct incident, he then worked as a doctor for Anita's Homes for an additional three years before the State of Alabama did anything about it," Webb said. "...How could this possibly have happened? How could a doctor with two counts of sexual misconduct on his record be allowed to be allowed to continue working as a doctor without a license for mentally ill or intellectually challenged patients? Was this just gross negligence from the State? Did the Department of Mental Health fail to protect the men and women it exists to serve?"
Webb teased his next episode, scheduled to be released later this month, by announcing he had spoken with someone who had lived at the compound when it was in operation.
"The truth is that her story is so strange, so puzzling, so damning, that I haven't been ready to tell you about her until now," he said.
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