|11/4/2019 - Another West Virginia veteran who died under suspicious conditions has been revealed, prompting a lawyer for the victim’s family to reiterate the similar circumstances of about 10 fatalities.|
Attorney Tony O’Dell today described the death of a 92-year-old naval veteran of World War II. His identity is not being revealed yet until his family gives approval.
Five other victims have been identified publicly. They include veterans William Alfred Holloway, Felix Kirk McDermott, George Nelson Shaw, Archie Edgell and John Hallman.
Additional deaths are apparently being investigated, but the victims have not yet been identified. The cases share several characteristics.
Each patient was on 3A of the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg. And each experienced crashing blood sugar before dying. Most had no history of diabetes and were not supposed to receive insulin injections.
The most recent victim to be described also had not been expected to die.
“He was in good shape for a man his age. He was mobile, had all of his mental faculties, very healthy,” O’Dell said.
But he developed pneumonia, was taken June 15, 2018, to the emergency room in Elkins and then was transferred to the intensive care unit at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg. He was provided with fluids, O’Dell said, and the infection started to clear.
“He’s sitting up in bed, talking with his family, eating normally,” O’Dell said.
On June 17, 2018, the patient was moved from the ICU to 3A, a unit where all the other mysterious deaths occurred.
“All of a sudden at 5 o’clock in the morning, he is found unresponsive,” O’Dell said.
His blood sugar levels had plunged. Normal blood sugar levels for a non-diabetic range from 70 to 130 mg/dL. At 5:30 a.m., the patient was at 14.
“This man was not a diabetic. He never had anything like this,” O’Dell said.
His body crashed, resulting in a heart attack. He lived for several days and then died in hospice.
An autopsy was performed on the man, but decomposition meant that it was inconclusive for insulin injections.
“But there is no other explanation for this individual, a non-diabetic, having blood sugar at that level,” O’Dell said. “There’s no other explanation.”
The deaths are being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Inspector General for the VA. Those involved with the case have suggested a person of interest no longer works at the VA but has not yet been arrested.
The Washington Post reported last month that the person of interest initially was transferred to a desk job, and then was fired after a few months. She was accused of falsely claiming on her resume that she was certified as a nursing assistant.
O’Dell said the family of the latest victim understands the criminal investigation takes time to nail down evidence.
“They want this person brought to justice. They understand that the criminal side of the investigation takes a while to dot their Is and cross their Ts.
“But this family is disappointed in the hospital side of the investigation of this case because there were so many system failures that we know about. That part is very troubling.”
O’Dell, who has filed claims with the VA on behalf of several families, delineated several ways oversight seemed to break down.
“This VA medical center hired an unqualified who turned out to be the person of interest. She was in fact an imposter. We know the VA Medical Center violated its own high risk medication policy and left insulin around on a cart for anyone to get. We know all of these victims had a severe hypoglycemic medical event that resulted in serious injury and death. We know the VA Medical Center did not label any of these a sentinel event,” he said.
“In order to fix a mistake you first have to admit a mistake, and there were a lot of mistakes made at this VA Medical Center.”
HIGH LEVEL VA OFFICIALS NEED TO BE FIRED?
10/25/2019 - The woman, who is considered a “person of interest” in these wrongful death cases, was terminated from the VA for providing false information on her job application. She was thought to be a CNA or Certified Nursing Assistant, but a check of the state agency that regulates those licenses does not turn up her name. Several of the veterans who died were injected with insulin, even though they were not diabetic.
“She absolutely was doing blood sugar tests on patients, because we have the medical records that show that she was doing that.” Reporter Q: And that would be improper? “She’s not a nursing assistant. She’s not a certified nursing assistant so as far as we know, she hasn’t had any medical training whatsoever,” said Tony O’Dell, an attorney for eight VA families.
We are not publicly naming the “person of interest,” since she has not been charged. But we are getting reaction to Senator Joe Manchin’s recent call that she be charged soon.
“The bottom line is, enough is enough. the woman – the person they say is a woman – her name has been out in the media. and this is ridiculous, there’s not been any indictments. There’s not been anybody basically, who’s been charged at all with this, and it’s ridiculous,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, (D) West Virginia on October 21.
But the attorney representing several families involved in the federal investigation wonders if there will be a plea bargain offered by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District, Bill Powell.
“I’m sure the families would love to have some resolution, like that. They would like to see an arrest I’m sure. I am kind of curious whether Bill Powell might be working on some type of plea agreement or something and maybe we’ll get a quick resolution when it finally happens,” said Tony O’Dell, attorney for VA families.
The attorney also says high-level staffers at the VA need to be fired for their lack of immediate action when these deaths occurred.
Aside from the criminal investigation lawyers representing the victims’ families want a review of medical practices and procedures at the VA, to see if some of those procedures were deliberately ignored, or simply overlooked.
10/23/2019 - There is growing frustration that after 16 months, no one has been arrested for 10 or more suspicious deaths at the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg.
A former employee is being called a “person of interest” in the case. We know she was employed as a certified nursing assistant or CNA. She worked on floor 3-A where all the deaths occurred, and she interacted with various victims and some of their family members. To some that should be enough to bring her in for questioning.
“The bottom line is enough is enough. The woman – the person they say is a woman – her name has been out in the media. And this is ridiculous, there’s not been any indictments. There’s not been anybody basically, who’s been charged at all with this, and it’s ridiculous,” said Sen. Joe Manchin.
Some media outlets knows the woman’s name but are not making it public unless she is charged. Others in Congress are also growing anxious at an investigation that has now gone on for well over a year.
The five publicly-named victims are military veterans Felix McDermott, George Shaw, William Holloway, Archie Edgell, and John Hallman. All died from unnecessary insulin injections.
10/18/2019 - One day after congress began looking into suspicious deaths at the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, new disturbing details are emerging about the circumstances surrounding them.
Attorney for seven of the VA families, Tony O’Dell says after reviewing medical records, the person of interest in the federal investigation was the person taking the glucose levels from the patients.
“There are definitely going to be time periods where that person, the person of interest was going to be in the room with the families while their loved one was dying when she was the cause of it,” said O’Dell.
The person of interest in the deaths has not been charged but the criminal investigation is ongoing. Until then O’Dell says big changes are needed at the VA Hospital.
“This is a hospital that has systemic problems and has had systemic problems for a period of time and those systemic problems are the reason this person was able to get along, get away with what she got away with as long as she did,” said O’Dell.
The Washington Post reported this month that the person of interest initially was transferred to a desk job, and then was fired after a few months. She was accused of falsely claiming on her resume that she was certified as a nursing assistant.
The Office of Inspector General for the Veterans Administration has been investigating the deaths, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
10/16/2019 - A third case in the VA death investigations at the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia has now been ruled a homicide. A source knowledgeable about details of the investigation has confirmed that a third veteran’s death has been determined to be a homicide, following the exhumation of the body and an autopsy.
However, the surviving family members of this third victim have chosen not to identify him publicly at this point in time. The ruling of a third homicide, in this case, comes the same day that the U.S. House of Representatives convenes its first hearing concerning a Congressional investigation of the VA deaths.
Reports have indicated that as many as 16 suspicious VA deaths are under investigation. A “person of interest” who used to work at the VA Medical Center, is being investigated, but so far no criminal charges have been filed.
10/15/2019 - There are more questions about who was minding the store at the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, where it least seven veterans died from unnecessary insulin injections. Attorney Tony O’Dell, who represents several families, says he’s learned that insulin in the facility was not properly locked up, a potential VA violation.
“Any person would have been able to take it off an unlocked cart and use it however they wanted,” said Tony O’Dell, an attorney for seven VA families.
A former hospital employee who remains a “person of interest” in the case, is suspected of misusing the insulin. But we are told that the floor has no surveillance cameras that recorded her activity.
“Certainly not any surveillance video where the insulin was stored,” said attorney Tony O’Dell.
Three of the deaths occurred on three successive days in April 2018, and the attorney says the VA may have violated West Virginia law, by not immediately calling for autopsies.
“We have these suddenly medically unexplained hypoglycemic events that did not get reported the way they should have been reported by the VA which means autopsies were not done,” said attorney O’Dell.
Two of the deaths are classified as homicides. So far no arrests have been made.
On Wednesday in the nation’s capital, the House Veterans Affairs Committee will be discussing medical problems at VA hospitals across America.
10/7/2019 – A person of interest has been identified in the ongoing investigation into suspicious deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg.
According to a report from the Washington Post, the investigation is focused on a now ex-employee of the hospital. The Washington Post reports the woman was a nursing assistant who worked the overnight shift.
The report states the woman 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.
According to the report, the woman was fired sometime in 2018 after hospital workers discovered that she had lied on her resume.
As of now, the Washington Post reports the woman has not been charged.
10/4/2019 - 96-year-old military veteran William “Sport” Holloway is the latest publicly confirmed suspicious death at the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia.
He died April 8, 2019, the very next day Air Force Veteran Geoge Shaw died there, and the day after that, Army veteran Felix McDermott passed away, too. All three died from unnecessary insulin injections.
Tony O’Dell, an attorney for some of the Clarksburg VA Medical Center victims, said, “The frustration is with the VA because the investigation should have begun when there was a first medically-unexplainable hypoglycemic event. And then the family should have been made aware. Then you had the second one and the third one.”
All died on Wing 3-A of the hospital. O’Dell also has an unnamed “Patient A” who died from hypoglycemia, even though he was not diabetic, “Really the only explanation for that would be an insulin injection, but we don’t have the autopsy back yet.”
And he represents another family for unnamed “Patient B” who died of a “Medically unexplainable severe hypoglycemic event, so everything matches up.”
Right now, by an unofficial count, 16 families have hired attorneys or contacted federal investigators about suspicious deaths at the VA.
“It’s just a horrible situation and I want people to know I’m doing everything in my power. I’m on it continuously, talking for all those who are involved, the U.S. Attorney’s office,” said Senator Joe Manchin, (D-West Virginia).
So far two of the deaths are considered homicides, and investigators have an unnamed person of interest.
Every time there is publicity in the case, more families come forward wondering if the death of a loved one at the Clarksburg VA is suspicious, too. Investigators are trying to dot all the “I’s” and dot all the “T’s” before moving forward.
9/19/2019 - — Another veteran who died under suspicious circumstances at the VA hospital in Clarksburg has been identified.
The death of Archie D. Edgell, 85, of Barbour County is being investigated, his family’s lawyer said.
Previously named as suspected victims were Vietnam veteran Felix McDermott and retired Air Force veteran George Shaw. The death of each veteran was ruled homicide following autopsies.
Another veteran, John Hallman, was identified last week by USA Today. His family has been contacted by the Inspector General for the Veterans Administration because Hallman died under suspicious circumstances.
9/17/2019 - Charleston attorney Tony O’Dell has now been hired by a sixth family that believes their relative died under suspicious circumstances, similar to the other cases at Clarksburg's VA Hospital.
Possibly up to 11 veterans died under mysterious circumstances.
Senator Joe Manchin warned the VA of a potential U.S. Senate investigation – now he’s calling for one.
“And I am very upset. Basically we are not getting straight answers. It’s just taking too long. And we’re going to start our own. We have to. We will start our own investigation. We’ll bring them in under oath and find out what really happened,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, (D-West Virginia).
“The family indicated that their loved one was on 3-A, that he was expecting to get out and all of a sudden had a sudden turn for the worse and died the day that he had the turn. So, we’ve got to get into the records and find out why that happened,” said Tony O’Dell, an attorney for VA victims.
So far the cases of Army Sergeant Felix McDermott and Air Force veteran George Shaw are listed as homicides, though no one has been arrested yet. 87-year-old Navy veteran John Hallman died at the hospital last summer under suspicious circumstances but has yet to be ruled a homicide.
9/12/2019 - Charleston attorney Tony O’Dell is now representing five families of veterans who died under suspicious circumstances at the Clarksburg Veterans Affairs facility.
Eleven deaths are being questioned.
9/11/2019 - There is more troubling information concerning deaths at the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg. A third family has come forward saying their loved one died under suspicious circumstances. 87-year-old Navy Veteran John Hallman died in June of 2018. An attorney representing surviving relatives is outraged.
“They put their lives at risk for us. They served their country. And they deserve the very best and they didn’t get it. And it’s hard to imagine the disappointment and the betrayal that these families feel,” said Tony O’Dell, an attorney representing five families who had a loved one die at the VA.
While Hallman’s death has yet to be ruled a homicide, it does fit the known pattern in several other deaths. He died on floor 3-A of the hospital. He was given insulin injections, even though he did not need them. And his condition was either stable or actually improving. We know that Army Sergeant Felix McDermott met a similar fate, as did Air Force Veteran George Shaw. The attorney says the VA has not been helpful.
“I do think it’s a coverup. I think the VA itself had an obligation to contact these families when there was an issue of a suspicious death with their family member. And they didn’t contact any of them, and to this day they still haven’t contacted a single one,” said attorney Tony O’Dell.
The attorney is now representing five families but anticipates more will retain his services.
The Inspector-General of the Veterans Administration continues to investigate these suspicious deaths, but big questions remain. When will that report be completed, and made public?
Meanwhile, federal authorities are investigating allegations of sexual assaults at a Veterans Affairs hospital in West Virginia.
The VA inspector-general issued a statement this week saying the office is working with federal law enforcement to look into multiple assaults at the Beckley VA Medical Center.
9/6/2019 - Homicides inside the VA Hospital in Clarksburg will be the top priority next week when Congress returns to Washington. That’s the promise from West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin who serves on the Veterans Affairs Committee.
Meanwhile, a Charleston lawyer is now representing the families of four veterans who died at the hospital as a result of homicides. He says he’s also hearing from other families who lost loved ones at the VA under mysterious circumstances. There could be 10 or more victims.
“They should be doing a root-cause analysis on each one of these to find out what happened, or what could have happened. And the fact that we have this many deaths over this time period, is truly, almost as astounding as knowing someone was doing it willfully,” said Tony O’Dell, attorney for four VA victims’ families.
“I can assure you next week when we go back, that will be the first thing we take up in the VA Committee. I did not know… the most troubling thing to me was, they knew in February it was a homicide. We had to find out from the press. What are they trying to work?” said Sen. Joe Manchin, (D-West Virginia).
The FBI and the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia are also involved in the case.
9/4/2019 - MetroNews is reporting multiple families whose loved ones died under suspicious circumstances at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Clarksburg shared similar stories, according to a lawyer who has taken their cases.
“The picture is becoming more clear to us,” said Charleston lawyer Tony O’Dell. “The deaths all came from one floor. Every victim so far has been on 3A.
“They weren’t terminal and all of a sudden they took a turn for the worse, and their blood sugars show this dramatic decrease.”
Multiple officials have confirmed the FBI and the Office of Inspector General for the Veterans Administration are investigating the deaths.
O’Dell, the attorney, has spoken with five additional families of veterans who died suspiciously. The families are considering his legal representation.
9/2/2019 - Federal prosecutor Bill Powell says his office will make greater efforts to inform victims’ families about an investigation into deaths at the Veterans Administration hospital in Clarksburg.
Powell says the investigation of up to 10 deaths under mysterious circumstances is close to being finished.
“We’re not at the beginning of the beginning. We’re at the beginning of the end,” Powell, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, said Monday.
“We’re moving as rapidly as we can conceivably move to make sure we get it right.”
8/31/2019 - The Clarksburg VA facility has been under public scrutiny for the past week after it was revealed that two retired U.S. service members died in the hospital, victims of homicide. Army Sergeant Felix McDermott and Air Force veteran George Shaw, Senior, both died in April of last year.
Each was given a fatal insulin injection even though neither man was a diabetic. The legislature’s Veterans and Military Affairs Committees may hold fact-finding hearings. Delegate Jim Bulter is a Marine Corps veteran.
“Well I think we should definitely have hearings and try to get to the botton of what their procedures are so we can prevent this from happening again. I’ve spoken to the Chairman Buck Jennings and he’s actually going to go in person. He lives pretty close to Clarksburg and he’s going to talk with the administrators there,” said Del. Jim Butler, Vice Chair, (R) Mason – Veterans Committee.
The state’s Congressional delegation has been frustrated by the lack of information provided by the VA’s Office of Inspector General in this case. Attorney Mike Woelfel, serves in the West Virginia State Senate.
“I just think that it’s outrageous that we’re here, well after a year, and there’s not been an arrest made,” said State Sen. Mike Woelfel, (D) Cabell.
Even VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, who was in West Virginia in May while the investigation was underway, complained that he’s gotten more information from the media in this case, than from his own Inspector General.
8/30/2019 - USA Today is reporting that a second homicide has been confirmed at the VA medical center in Clarksburg.
The newspaper said the family of George Nelson Shaw Sr., who live on a farm in rural West Virginia, learned last month from investigators that the veteran’s death was ruled a homicide.
A lawyer for one of the victims told media Thursday that the FBI is investigating.
Earlier this week, reports surfaced that Felix Kirk McDermott, a Vietnam veteran and a patient at the Clarksburg medical center from Ritchie County, died April 9, 2018, after he was given a dose of insulin and his death had been ruled a homicide.
A civil complaint filed by a Charleston law firm with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said nine or 10 other deaths also are suspected homicides.
Few details have been made public regarding this disturbing story.
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.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he spoke with officials Monday to discuss an investigation into 11 suspicious deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg and they confirmed the person of interest is no longer in contact with veterans at the facility.
A complaint also claims that nine or 10 patients at the medical center died unexpectedly as a result of low blood sugar. Each had received a large injection of insulin in the abdomen that “was neither ordered by a doctor or medically necessary,” the complaint said.
8/23/2019 - The body of a retired Army sergeant who died while in the care of the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg has been exhumed, and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System has ruled it a homicide.
About 10 other deaths at the Medical Center are suspicious and are believed to have occurred in the same manner.
The news was first reported by a WV news website WV NEWS.
That's according to a notice of claim filed with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs this week by attorney Tony O'Dell of the Charleston law firm Tiano O'Dell PLLC.
If the armed forces medical examiner is correct, the military veteran "was murdered while he was in the care and custody of the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center despite the VAMC being on notice of the previous wrongful injections," wrote O'Dell, who filed the claim.
The claim also asserts that VA investigators "have a person of interest in the deaths of the multiple VAMC patients," but that person's name hasn't been shared with O'Dell and his client.
Jonathan Kott, communications director for U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kelley Moore, press secretary for U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said their offices had immediately begun seeking answers on the matter from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Retired Army Sgt. Felix Kirk McDermott, 82, of Ellenboro, died April 9, 2018, at the Medical Center.
The VA Office of the Inspector General ordered McDermott's remains exhumed Oct. 23, 2018, and they were sent to Dover Air Force Base for an autopsy "because of the suspicious manner of Mr. McDermott's death," O'Dell wrote in the claim filed on behalf of Melanie Proctor, McDermott's daughter, who lives in Ellenboro and is administrator of her father's estate.
"During its investigation, VA investigators advised Melanie Proctor ... that there was evidence that nine or ten other patients of the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center had been wrongfully injected with insulin in their abdomen, thereby causing their deaths," O'Dell wrote. "Ms. Proctor was further advised that her father was one of the last known victims."
The autopsy "confirmed investigators' suspicions that Ret. Army Sgt. McDermott had received an exogenous insulin shot in the left side of his abdomen," the claim states. "That finding was consistent with the clinical history of profound hypoglycemic event that occurred the morning of April 9, 2018.
"The autopsy report confirmed that Ret. Army Sgt. McDermott was not a diabetic and had no history of oral hypoglycemic use or previous insulin administration," O'Dell wrote. "The autopsy report also confirmed there were no hospital orders for the administration of insulin. The autopsy report noted that despite Ret. Army Sgt. McDermott's pre-existing health issues, he was showing clear improvement in his medical condition when he was negligently, wrongfully, or intentionally injected with insulin."
Strangely, the claim contends that employees at the Medical Center "were aware of each of the unexpected and suspicious deaths," with no criminal investigation until now.
The claim, which serves as an official six-month notice of a coming lawsuit, seeks monetary damages of $1 million for personal injury and $5 million for wrongful death, as well as funeral expenses and other costs.
O'Dell said his law office is currently seeking out the families of the other patients who may have died the same way.
McDermott, who also had lived in Ruffs Dale, Pennsylvania, retired as a sergeant after a 20-year career in the Army, during which he was deployed to Vietnam, then served in the Pennsylvania National Guard and also worked as a truck driver.