We now know the identity of a sixth person who died under suspicious circumstances at the Louis A. Johnson VA Hospital in Clarksburg. Russ Posey, a World War II Navy veteran, died July 3, 2018.
Posey, 92, was not a diabetic, but his blood sugar dropped from normal levels to just 14, plunging him into a diabetic coma. He died a couple weeks later.
Along with Posey, veterans William Alfred Holloway, Felix Kirk McDermott, George Nelson Shaw, Archie Edgell and John Hallman all died under similar circumstances at the VA hospital. In several of the cases, autopsies have shown the individuals died after receiving unprescribed injections of insulin and several of the deaths have been classified as homicides.
Posey’s family came forward yesterday on Talkline to reveal their father was one of the 10 or 11 deaths under investigation by the VA’s Office of the Inspector General, the FBI and Bill Powell, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia.
The VA and investigators say there is a “a person of interest,” who worked at the VA as a nurse’s assistant, but no charges have been filed. VA Hospital spokesman Wesley Walls said earlier this month that the VA reported suspicious deaths to investigators in a timely fashion and fired the person of interest.
Still, families like the Poseys want answers. Gina Wilkins said the hospital could not explain how her father went overnight from improving to diabetic shock. “I didn’t know what to think. I just said, ‘What happened?’ I said ‘This is odd. I don’t get it. What’s going on?’” Wilkins told me on Talkline. “The answer I kept getting was ‘We don’t know.’”
Wilkins believes she encountered the individual now identified as the person of interest. At the time, the conversation seemed innocent enough. She told Wilkins it was an honor serving her dad, but when that same nursing assistant came back on her next shift, she seemed surprised to see Wilkins.
“Oh, you’re still here,” Wilkins remembered her saying. Wilkins thought it odd at the time, but now in hindsight it is downright chilling.
The controversy has reached Capitol Hill where Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia, who is a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, is pressing for answers. So far, he and others who are asking questions are not getting much information.
The issue arose at a recent Congressional hearing where Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie was testifying. Montana Democratic Senator Jon Tester told Wilkie that he better pay attention to Manchin on this issue.
“There are eleven guys who died, and we would all be asking the same questions if it happened in our state,” Tester said. “We need answers.”
Wilkie, who took over the VA after the investigation began, said his office is doing everything it can “within the parameters of the law.”
Naturally, the question keeps coming up: If the deaths are suspicious, even homicides, and there is a person of interest, why hasn’t she been arrested? I can’t answer that except to tell you what I’m told, that the investigation is ongoing, and authorities want to ensure they have a solid case before bringing charges.
Meanwhile, I appreciate the Posey family for coming forward. Their willingness to discuss their father’s life and untimely death helps us put a face on this sinister story that continues to unfold.