CRIME

Families Demand Answers Amid Probe Of 11 Suspicious Deaths At VA Hospital

A "person of interest" reportedly has been identified in deaths at a VA hospital in West Virginia. Two cases have been ruled homicides.

Families of patients who died at a Veterans Affairs hospital in West Virginia are seeking answers as federal authorities investigate up to 11 suspicious deaths, including two that have been ruled homicides.

A “person of interest” has been identified in the string of deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Hospital in Clarksburg, according to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and the person is no longer in contact with any veterans at the hospital. There have been no arrests.

Charleston attorney Tony O’Dell, who is representing the family of one of the homicide victims, said in an interview Wednesday that five other families have contacted him with suspicions concerning the death loved ones at the hospital. Each of the patients took an unexpected, fatal turn for the worse and died.

The picture is becoming more clear to us,” O’Dell told West Virginia’s MetroNews “The deaths all came from one floor. Every victim so far has been on 3A.”

O’Dell said last month that the deaths represent “a complete and total betrayal of the trust of our veterans and their loved ones. There are system failures at work here that allowed so many veterans to die in the same manner.”

Investigators have determined that Army veteran Felix Kirk McDermott and Air Force vet George Nelson Shaw Sr. were both killed last spring with a fatal dose of insulin, causing their blood sugar to plummet. 

The VA Office of Inspector General said late last month that it “has been working with our federal law enforcement partners to investigate the allegations of potential wrongdoing resulting in patient deaths” at the hospital. 

Investigators are looking into the deaths of at least nine other patients who also died from low blood sugar, which can be caused by an insulin injection, according to a wrongful death claim filed by O’Dell for the McDermott family, reported the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

Manchin, in a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie and Inspector General Michael Missal last month, urged them to “quickly complete” the probe.

“I also ask you to contact grieving family members and share as much information as you can with them,” the senator wrote. Manchin also expressed frustration with the lack of communication and transparency from either office regarding the investigations.

An irritated Machin told reporters Tuesday that he was upset by a lack of answers. “They have a person of interest,” Manchin said. “I said, ‘It shouldn’t take that long to find the evidence. It’s been over a year now.’”

Hospital officials alerted the VA Office of Inspector General about the suspicious deaths in June 2018, according to a spokesman.