CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The federal prosecutor in northern West Virginia has confirmed “an ongoing and comprehensive federal criminal investigation” into the suspicious deaths at the Veterans Administration hospital in Clarksburg.
“The investigation, conducted by my office, along with the FBI and the VA OIG, was initiated as soon as potential criminal conduct was discovered and continues to be a top priority,” stated U.S. Attorney Bill Powell.
Families of veterans who died under suspicious circumstances have complained in recent weeks that federal officials haven’t been more forthcoming.
The families say loved ones who sought treatment at the hospital died after their blood sugar levels plummeted because of unplanned insulin injections.
Authorities have described a person of interest who no longer has access to patients, but other details have been elusive so far.
Powell addressed the status of the federal probe, but provided few specifics about when more might be revealed.
“We fully understand the desire for a speedy resolution and need for closure,” he stated. “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.”
Meanwhile, Senator Joe Manchin, who has described strong misgivings over a lack of information in the case, announced plans to visit the VA in Clarksburg today.
Families like the loved ones of Air Force veteran George Shaw also want to know more.
“They want answers. This is a military family. They went to the VA hospital for their healthcare. They and others have no trust. They feel betrayed and they want answers,” said David Glover, an attorney representing the Shaw family.
Shaw, 81, was in relatively good health and expected to be released shortly after checking into the Veterans Administration hospital in Clarksburg last year, his family’s lawyer said.
“He just wasn’t feeling well. He was a little tired, dehydrated. He was responding well. He was up walking the halls. He was looking at a Monday discharge,” Glover, a Clarksburg attorney, said on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”
Instead, Shaw took a turn for the worse on March 26, 2018, because of “a sudden hypoglycemic event that was completely unexpected and unexplained.”
With his blood sugar crashing, he went down hill. By April 10, 2018, he was dead.
Now, Shaw’s family is the second to come forward with deep, disturbing concerns about a death at the Louis A. Johnson Medical Center.
Glover says representatives of the Office of Inspector for the Veterans Administration and investigators with the FBI have told the family Shaw died after being administered a fatal dose of insulin.
“They thought their loved one died of natural causes,” Glover said. “Over a year later, in July 2019, they found out that wasn’t the case. He was a victim of homicide.”
The deaths at the VA hospital in Clarksburg have prompted deep concerns at a national level. USA Today has examined what happened to the Shaw family.
Prior to the Shaw disclosure, the family of retired Army Sgt. Felix McDermott filed a claim against the VA, saying he had died after an unplanned insulin injection.
The claim by McDermott’s family describes 10 mysterious deaths, all under similar circumstances, at the VA Hospital. Only two families have made their stories public so far.
Shaw spent 28 years as a communications specialist in the Air Force. After retiring, he took a job in the mail room at the VA hospital in Clarksburg, working there for eight years. In his retirement years, he was living on a farm near Wallace, Harrison County.
So it was as natural for him to seek help at the VA hospital for dehydration and a few other symptoms when he fell ill in 2018. His death shortly after that was completely unexpected, Glover said.
The family’s first confirmation that something wasn’t right was last fall when the family received a visit at home from federal investigators.
Glover said the family was told, “Your husband’s death is suspicious and there are others.”
The family granted permission to exhume Shaw’s body for an autopsy, which took place at Dover Air Force Base.
Then, this past July 3, the family received confirmation that the death was considered homicide.
“They thought they would be given answers sooner than this,” Glover said.
Shaw’s survivors include his wife Norma. They had three children, nine grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren.
Glover expects to soon file a claim on the family’s behalf. Meanwhile, he wonders how others are perceiving what has gone on at the VA hospital.
“The hospital is supposed to keep them safe and provide reliable care,” he said, “and the confidence in that has to be shaken.”