Another suspicious death victim named at VA Medical Center

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CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WDTV/AP) - UPDATE (Sept. 19, 2019 @ 2:00 p.m.):

Archie Edgell's death at the Clarksburg VA was deemed suspicious. (Davis Funeral Home)

We now know the identity of another man whose death at the Louis A Johnson VA Medical Center, in Clarksburg, West Virginia, 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 the age of 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.

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 he has no doubt the death 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 8/29/19 @ 6:30 p.m.

George Nelson Shaw Senior, an Air Force Veteran and former employee of the Louis A Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg West Virginia, was admitted as a patient to the facility in March 2018.

Weeks later, he was gone.

USA Today broke the story of his death Wednesday night in an interview with his family.

The Harrison County residents said federal investigators contacted them last winter asking to exhume their loved one's body.

His death was suspicious.

An autopsy at Dover Air Force Base revealed his death was a homicide. The medical examiner called it death by insulin injection.

Shaw's situation was strikingly similar to the family of Retired Army Sergeant Felix Kirk McDermott.

His body was exhumed in October. An autopsy found he also died after a fatal insulin injection he didn't need.

More striking - McDermott died the day before Shaw.

David Glover is the Shaw family's attorney. The family contacted him before reports surfaced of McDermott's death.

"We're discussing all legal remedies at this time," Glover said. "That's all I can say about that. They want answers and I think they deserve those."

West Virginia's congressional delegation says a person of interest has been identified in the string of deaths.

Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito was told the person of interest no longer works at the VA.

"My question is why were they even allowed to stay at the VA and why have they not been brought to justice?" Capito said.

The lawyer representing McDermott's family said the number of suspicious deaths could total as many as 11.

Glover said the Shaw family has not filed a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs like the McDermott's lawyer yet. Their filing serves as a six-month notice to the federal government of an impending lawsuit.

West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin says lawmakers were told of an investigation into the VA last July, but the VA Office of Inspector General never passed along updates, including the possibility of homicides.

"We were only told about one last week," Manchin said. "Now we're finding out there are more. I've heard from 10 plus family members who are concerned about how their family members may have passed away."

Manchin said the VA Office of Inspector General has been slow to respond to requests by lawmakers for updates in their investigation.

That's something Capito said is among the most frustrating aspects of the situation.

"They've been sitting on this for a couple of months or a longer period of time without informing our office so we can help our constituents and our veterans understand the situation," Capito said.

Manchin sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr Thursday asking him to get the justice department involved. He spoke with VA Inspector General Michael Missal Wednesday.

"I said, 'A year is enough to give us answers,'" Manchin said. "Can't we at least give the family some closure?"

The VA Inspector General's only statement since the initial homicide was reported publically acknowledged the investigation but issued no additional comment.

UPDATE 08/29/19 @ 5 p.m.
A lawyer for the estate of a Vietnam veteran says the FBI is involved in an investigation of suspicious deaths at a Veterans Affairs hospital in West Virginia.

Attorney Tony O’Dell said Thursday that his client and others have indicated the bureau is involved in investigating the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg.

O’Dell represents the estate of Army Sgt. Felix Kirk McDermott. He’s filed notice of a pending lawsuit that says the 82-year-old was wrongly injected with a fatal dose of insulin in April 2018. The death was ruled a homicide.

The FBI referred questions to the U.S. attorney’s office, which has declined to confirm or deny an investigation. The VA’s inspector general has confirmed he is investigating “potential wrongdoing.”

U.S. Sen Joe Manchin says 11 suspicious deaths have occurred at the hospital.

UPDATE 08/28/19 @ 10:15 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.

Stick with five news as more details develop.

UPDATE 08/28/19 @ 4:36 p.m.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin said that he spoke with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General Michael Missal Wednesday.

According to a release from Manchin's office, Manchin sent a letter to Missal and Department of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie urging them to conclude the investigation into the 11 suspicious deaths being investigated at the Clarksburg VA, one of which was confirmed to be homicide.

“In the interest of assisting grieving family members and restoring public confidence across West Virginia, I urge you to quickly complete your investigation into the potential homicides resulting from unexplained episodes of hypoglycemia at the Louis A. Johnson Medical Center (VAMC) in Clarksburg, West Virginia," Manchin wrote in the letter. "I also ask you to contact grieving family members and share as much information as you can with them. Further, I ask you to establish a crisis hotline to answer questions from impacted Veterans and their families. As of this morning seven families have reached out to me, and they deserve answers and all of our support.”

Manchin's office says that they were notiified by Missal that a medical and criminal investigation into the matter was opened in July 2018. They were informed that at least nine in-patients at the Clarksburg VA hospital had been diagnosed with significant hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, of unclear cause over a 9 month period.

The claim filed by Tiano O'Dell says that retired Army Sergeant Felix McDermott died of low blood sugar after he received a fatal dose of insulin in April 2018.

The claim says McDermott's death was ruled a homicide after an autopsy was completed.

UPDATE 08/26/19 @ 4:45 p.m.
According to a statement by VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal, the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General are working with federal law enforcement partners to investigate the "allegations of potential wrongdoing resulting in patient deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center."

The office did not comment further on the activity, however, they assure that the VA OIG works to identify urgently address allegations related to patient safety.

UPDATE 08/26/19 @ 6:05 p.m.
5 News spoke with local veteran, Ken Warman about his experience at the Clarksburg VA Medical Center.

"That facility, I hate to tell you. Worst facility I have ever been to. Hands down, of all the states I have been to. Hands down the worst. I have been treated the worst," said Warman.

According to a 2018 report by the Department of Veteran's Affairs Office of the Inspector General, officials found one sentinel event at the medical center. A sentinel event is defined by the report as a "incident or condition that results in patient death, permanent harm, severe temporary harm, or intervention required to sustain life."

Originally, inspectors found six cases that appeared to meet the criteria for sentinel events, however, after discussing with facility managers, those cases were re-evaluated.

Inspectors also found a presence of "organizational risk factors - [noted as] lack of identification, tracking, and reporting of sentinel events and disclosure of adverse events."

The report notes that these risk factors could contribute to "future issues of noncompliance and/or lapses in patient safety."


UPDATE 08/26/19 @ 1:03 p.m.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin's office say he spoke with the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie and Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center Director Dr. Glenn Snider Monday about the ongoing investigation into the suspicious deaths being investigated at VAMC. One of the up to 11 deaths was ruled a homicide.

“Today I made sure to talk to Secretary Wilkie and Dr. Snider to make sure that their investigation into these deaths is accurate and thorough. I was also assured by both Secretary Wilkie and Dr. Snider that the person of interest is no longer in any contact with Veterans at the VA facility," said Manchin. "These crimes shock the conscience and I’m still appalled they were not only committed but that our Veterans, who have sacrificed so much for our country, were the victims."

Manchin says he will do everything in his power to investigate 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,” said Manchin.

The claim filed by Tiano O'Dell says that retired Army Sergeant Felix McDermott died of low blood sugar after he received a fatal dose of insulin in April.

The claim says McDermott's death was ruled a homicide after an autopsy was completed.

UPDATE 08/23/19
A claim filed by Tiano O'Dell law firm says that retired Army Sergeant Felix McDermott received a fatal dose of insulin while a patient at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center.

According to the claim obtained by 5 News, first reported by the Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram, McDermott was admitted to the VAMC on April 6, 2018. He died of hypoglycemia, or severe low blood sugar, on April 9, 2018. He was 82.

The claim states that employees never told McDermott's family how he died. He was buried 4 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 February 2019 confirmed that McDermott was not a diabetic and that he was showing improvement in his medical condition when was injected with insulin.

The autopsy ruled McDermott's death a homicide.

The claim also states that nine or 10 other patients died of severe low blood sugar before McDermott's death.

Tony O'Dell is the family's lawyer.

"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," O'Dell said.

The claim says the VAMC breached its duty and was negligent in several ways.

The claim says 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.”

5 news reached out to Congressman David McKinely's office for a statement.

“Congressman McKinley is aware of an ongoing investigation at Clarksburg by the Veterans Administration Office of the Inspector General," said McKinely's Communications Director Amanda Hyman "We hope to get more answers about this situation as that investigation progresses.”

The full claim is attached to the right of this article.



ORIGINAL STORY
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

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