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New project honors disabled Tri-Cities woman killed by her father

Carmen Engles, who was a caretaker to Carmina Brown, holds a candle during a vigil for the Brown Family at The Arc of Tri-Cities in Richland. in this 2015 file photo.
Carmen Engles, who was a caretaker to Carmina Brown, holds a candle during a vigil for the Brown Family at The Arc of Tri-Cities in Richland. in this 2015 file photo. Tri-City Herald file

A new group home for developmentally disabled adults is expected to open in Kennewick later this year — the first of five such homes planned for a 1.7-acre property off Edison Street.

The development will be called Carmina’s Place, named for the young woman who inspired it — and whose life tragically was cut short a little more than three years ago.

Carmina Brown, who had a chromosomal abnormality and was intellectually disabled, died in a murder-suicide in December 2015 at the hands of her father, Doug.

Her mother, Elena, also was killed.

Elena helped out with Modern Living Services, the nonprofit behind the group home project.

“Elena was an integral part of us getting our first project (Kennewick Perry Suites, a subsidized apartment complex for disabled adults) off the ground,” said Andrea Mallonee, co-founder of the nonprofit.

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Doug, Elena and Carmina Brown. Courtesy photo

Elena and Doug Brown had purchased the Edison Street land with the idea that it could one day hold a group home where their daughter and only child could live. Their family donated it after their deaths.

Disabled adult group home

Ground is expected to be broken in the next couple of weeks. The hope is that the first home will be finished around October, said Ray Geimer, president of Modern Living Services.

The 4,400-square-foot home will have six bedrooms, plus separate quarters for a caretaker.

It’ll also have communal space, such as a dining room and living room areas.

“It’ll be nice comfortable family home,” Geimer said.

MMEC Architecture & Interiors and Knutzen Engineering are volunteering their services, and Scott Anderson stepped up as the builder. Mahaffey Enterprises is handling excavation work.

The $400,000 cost for the first home is being covered by several grants, including a recently-awarded $240,000 grant from Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines that put the project over the edge.

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A drawing of the first group home at Carmina’s Place in Kennewick. Courtesy of MMEC Architects & Interiors

Geimer said the other homes envisioned for the site likely will be similar to the first one.

A central facility will communal space also is planned.

Geimer hopes to see a full build-out over the next decade.

Honoring Carmina

Carmina Brown was 27 when she died on Dec. 11, 2015.

She attended Southridge High School in Kennewick, graduating in 2008, and worked for Goodwill Industries. She was part of a Special Olympics swim team coached by her parents.

A joyful soul, she loved piano, trips to the library and bike rides.

Both Doug and Elena were retired U.S. Navy officers who were involved in the Tri-Cities community and who were devoted to their daughter. The family often was spotted on walks in their neighborhood.

Doug had been struggling with depression. He didn’t leave a note explaining his actions.

The family tragedy “was a real shock for the entire community,” said Mallonee, the Modern Living Services co-founder, adding that moving forward with Carmina’s Place is a meaningful way to honor and remember.

The project also will help meet a great need, Geimer said.

“It’s amazing how few options people have for their loved ones to have an independent life, for families to have help with what they’re trying to deal with,” he said.

Carmina’s Place “is something that’s sorely needed. It’s not just this area, it’s needed everywhere.”

Modern Living Services accepts cash donations and also is in need of in-kind help, including people in the building trades able to lend a hand to the Carmina’s Place project.

To learn more or get involved, go to modernlivingservices.org.

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