UPDATE: Lawyer confirms 3rd homicide in probe of VA hospital patient deaths

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CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WDTV, AP) - UPDATE: 10/16/19 3:30 P.M.

An attorney has confirmed a third homicide at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center, according to a report by WDTV Television.

Attorney Tony O'Dell said he was told by a lawyer in Clarksburg that the death of his client who died at the hospital on Sept. 17, 2018, was ruled a homicide. The lawyer requested to remain anonymous.

A VA oversight committee hearing was scheduled to discuss the Clarksburg VA deaths on Wednesay.

Last week, the Washington Post reported that federal authorities had identified a now-fired hospital employee as a person of interest in their investigation of up to 11 suspicious patient deaths at the VA center.

The report said the woman worked the overnight shift as a nursing assistant and left last year. She was assigned to monitor several of the veterans who died in what are known as one-on-one bedside vigils for patients who need extra attention, the newspaper reported.

The newspaper has not identified the woman because she has not been charged.


UPDATE 9/19/2019 10:29 P.M.

The family of a fourth patient is seeking answers as authorities investigate multiple suspicious deaths at a Veterans Affairs hospital in West Virginia.

Lawyer Dino Colombo says he's representing the family of 85-year-old Army veteran Archie Edgell, who died at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg last year.

Federal prosecutors are probing up to 11 patient deaths at the facility.

Attorneys representing the men's families say at least two of the deaths have been ruled homicides following wrongful insulin injections. One of the lawyers says a third death came after a Navy veteran's blood sugar spiked, indicating another wrongful insulin injection.

Colombo said federal investigators exhumed Edgell's body last year. He shared a portion of an autopsy that links the death to the unprescribed injection of insulin.


UPDATE 9/19/2019

We now know the identity of another man whose death at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center was deemed suspicious.

The lawyer representing the family of Archie Edgell is confident the Army veteran's death was among around 10 deemed suspicious at the Clarksburg facility in 2018. Two have publically been confirmed as homicides.

Archie Edgell died at age 85 when he was a patient at the Clarksburg facility in March 2018. He served as the street and water commissioner in Salem for 20 years. He had dementia but wasn't close to death, lawyer Dino Colombo said, who is representing the family.

Four days after he was admitted to the hospital, he was dead.

Nine months after his funeral, representatives from the VA Office of Inspector General showed up to Edgell's son's home in Doddridge County.

"They killed him, didn't they?" Colombo said Edgell's son asked investigators.

Edgell's body was exhumed and an autopsy was performed, finding four insulin injections on his legs and arms.

The autopsy ruled his death was suspicious, but investigators have not drawn the conclusion yet that it was a homicide. Colombo said investigators are still examining forensic evidence, but has no doubt the deaths followed a similar pattern to others previously reported.

Retired U.S. Army Sgt. Felix McDermott was the first death publically reported. His death, along with retired Air Force veteran George Shaw, was ruled a homicide.

The USA Today last week identified another man, John Hallman, as the third known victim.

The families' lawyers all said they know of at least 10 victims. Colombo said all of them died under the same suspicious circumstances on floor 3A of the facility during the same time period.

Colombo said the lawyers also have an idea of who the person of interest is, but deferred to the U.S. Attorney's office to release more details. U.S. Attorney Bill Powell contacted Colombo Thursday morning to let him know Edgell's death was on their radar as one of the victims.


UPDATE 8/28/2019 11:41 P.M.

According to USA TODAY, a second homicide has been identified out of 11 suspicious deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center.

USA TODAY says that Air Force veteran, George Nelson Shaw Sr. died on April 10, 2018 at the VA hospital. Federal investigators wanted to exhume the body and examine it for foul play.

Last month, investigators found that Shaw was killed and did not die of natural causes.

Shaw's death is one of 11 deaths that are being investigated by federal authorities, according to USA TODAY.


UPDATE 8/27/2019 7:42 P.M.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says it's investigating allegations of ``potential wrongdoing'' resulting in multiple patient deaths at a VA hospital in West Virginia.

VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal said in a statement Tuesday that his office has been looking with federal law enforcement into allegations at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg. He didn't elaborate.

An attorney for the daughter of a Clarksburg VA patient who died last year filed a notice of a pending lawsuit. It said an autopsy showed her father died after an insulin injection.

Charleston attorney Tony O'Dell said the VA told his client there was evidence as many as 10 other patients died in similar fashion.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia says he wants answers about what happened.


West Virginia politicians are calling for answers after a Vietnam veteran's death at a VA hospital was ruled a homicide.

U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito vowed Friday to investigate after a news report on the death of retired Army Sgt. Felix Kirk McDermott at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia.

A lawyer for McDermott's estate provided The Associated Press with a legal document sent to the VA claiming the 82-year-old was wrongly injected with a fatal dose of insulin in April 2018. It also contains an autopsy report from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner that rules the death a homicide.

Manchin also questioned the hospital's treatment of other patients.

The hospital didn't return a voicemail. A VA spokeswoman did not comment.


U.S. Senator Joe Manchin release a statement on a claim filed by Tiano O'Dell law firm that one of the up to 11 suspicious deaths being investigated at the Louis A Johnson VA Medical Center has been ruled a homicide.

“This report is shocking and if accurate, I am appalled that these crimes were not only committed but that our Veterans, who have sacrificed so much for our country, were the victims. As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee I will do everything in my power to investigate these accusations and get to the bottom of what happened. These families and loved ones deserve answers as soon as possible and I will make sure they get them,” Senator Manchin said.

The claim states that the other nine or ten suspicious deaths are also expected to be a homicide.


ORIGINAL STORY 8/25/2019

A lawsuit filed by the Tiano O’Dell law firm claims that retired Army Sgt. Felix McDermott received a fatal dose of insulin while a patient at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center.

According to the suit, McDermott, 82, was admitted to the VA medical center on April 6, 2018. He died of hypoglycemia, or severe low blood sugar, on April 9, 2018.

The claim stated that employees never told McDermott’s family how he died. He was buried four days later.

On Oct. 23, 2018, McDermott's remains were exhumed and sent to the Dover Air Force Base for an autopsy and investigation.

The autopsy completed in February confirmed that McDermott was not a diabetic and that he was showing improvement in his medical condition when was injected with insulin.

McDermott’s death was ruled a homicide.

The lawsuit also claims that nine or 10 other patients died of severe low blood sugar before McDermott’s death.

“It’s all very disturbing that people who served our country were being killed either extremely negligently, grossly negligently or intentionally, and nobody has done anything about it,” said Tony O’Dell, the family’s lawyer.

The VA medical center breached its duty and was negligent in several ways, the lawsuit said, and thus, their client, the estate of McDermott, is seeking damages of up to $5 million for wrongful death, $1 million for personal injuries and expenses for the funeral and other costs.

"Each time one of these deaths happened, they have an obligation to run at the ground to find out what happened, why it happened, how it could be prevented," O'Dell said.

McDermott was a Vietnam veteran who served for 20 years before retiring.

U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore-Capito released statements about the claim.

“This news is sickening and troubling," Capito said. "My office has reached out to the VA to learn more details, and I will do everything I can to make sure this is fully investigated.”

Sen. Joe Manchin release a statement on the lawsuit, saying: “This report is shocking and if accurate, I am appalled that these crimes were not only committed but that our Veterans, who have sacrificed so much for our country, were the victims. As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee I will do everything in my power to investigate these accusations and get to the bottom of what happened. These families and loved ones deserve answers as soon as possible and I will make sure they get them."



 
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