CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., spent two hours on Friday meeting and talking to officials about multiple suspicious deaths at the Clarksburg Veterans Affairs hospital.
In a call with reporters, Manchin said he met with the staff of the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in regards to the deaths of up to 11 patients, in which officials have ruled two deaths as homicides.
Manchin additionally said he spoke to U.S. Attorney Bill Powell and Veterans Affairs Inspector General Michael Missal about the matter.
“U.S. Attorney Powell told me that he’s getting all the cooperation from the DOJ (Department of Justice). He has the resources he needs, and I told him how important it was to try to expedite this as quickly as possible but be as thorough as possible,” Manchin said. “He assured me that’s what’s being done.”
Powell said in a statement Friday the investigation — which involves his office, the FBI and the Missal’s office — “continues to be a top priority.”
“We fully understand the desire for a speedy resolution and need for closure,” he said. “The VA will continue to coordinate with the affected families, but in order to protect the integrity of the investigation, we will not be making any additional comments until the investigation is complete.”
Two families have retained legal counsel in connection with the deaths of family members; retired Army Sgt. Flex McDermott and George Nelson Shaw, a retired member of the Air Force, died in April 2018 after insulin injections.
Manchin said there could be a third homicide ruling in the future.
“The FBI has contacted the family and asked their permission to exhume and examine,” the senator said. “We have two confirmed, and we have a third where the FBI wants to do the examination.”
Missal said this week at least nine patients were diagnosed with low blood sugar.
“We’re going to find out if there’s any more. And we’re going to find out how this could have happened and who did it, and who should have known and who didn’t know and who was negligent,” Manchin added.
Eleven people have approached Manchin’s office about the current investigation; five individuals have asked about working with the inspector general’s office.
A medical and criminal investigation began in July 2018 after multiple deaths. Manchin and the public did not learn about the first homicide ruling until The Clarksburg Exponent published a report last week.
Manchin said he spoke to Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Ranking Member Jon Tester, D-Mont., about a possible congressional investigation; Manchin, a committee member, told reporters Isakson and Tester have agreed to an inquiry.
“There’s nobody protected here. If there’s anyone covering up … if there’s anyone withholding, they will be prosecuted to the fullest,” he said.
Manchin said there is not a timetable for when the ongoing investigation will be completed.