The first lawsuit over the suspicious deaths at the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Hospital in Clarksburg has been filed.
This is the first of many.
The suit is brought by Melanie Proctor, daughter of the late Felix Kirk McDermott. He was a retired Army Sgt. who died at the VA hospital on April 9, 2018. But the 82-year-old Ellenboro man didn’t just pass quietly away when his time came.
He was murdered.
When suspicions arose about the deaths of McDermott and other patients, his body was exhumed and taken to Dover Air Force Base, where an autopsy was performed. The medical examiner’s conclusion was that McDermott’s death was a homicide—he was injected with lethal amounts of unprescribed insulin.
McDermott’s family was the first to come forward publicly about the suspicious death. Others have followed. MetroNews has identified six other individuals who died under the same circumstances and McDermott, and there may be as many as ten or eleven in total.
In the suit, filed by Charleston attorney Tony O’Dell, the allegation is that key staff members at the VA hospital knew there was a pattern to the deaths—the same floor of the hospital (3A), the sudden, severe and unexplained drop in blood sugar levels, all occurring on the night shift—but failed to identify and report the sentinel events as required by the VA.
O’Dell believes there was a coverup. The suit alleges that “Emergency room staff openly commented that if patients were admitted to Floor 3A they would die,” and there was “active communication” among VA staff including the leadership team about the deaths “long before those deaths were ever reported to the OIG (VA’s Office of the Inspector General).”
VA Hospital spokesman Wesley Walls said the VA does not comment on pending litigation. He did, however, repeat what he has said in previous statements, that their “hearts go out to the families affected by these tragic deaths.”
“Well over a year after the Clarksburg VAMC reported this issue to authorities, veterans and families are still waiting for the independent inspector general to complete its work and provide the closure West Virginia veterans and families deserve,” he added.
We’ve heard a lot about the “person of interest,” the nurses assistant who worked that overnight shift on 3A and was fired by the hospital. Notably, she is not named in this suit. O’Dell said he decided to leave her out of the suit since she has not been charged.
The Washington Post reported recently that a grand jury is meeting to investigate the VA deaths, but there has been no word on possible indictments.
The reporting on the story by various media and the disclosures by family members of the victims, their lawyers and whistleblowers have established a clear pattern in these suspicious deaths. In several instances, the evidence is so overwhelming that a medical examiner has classified the deaths as homicides.
We may never hear anything from federal investigators if no charges are filed and who knows when the OIG’s report will be finished? In the meantime, this lawsuit and others to follow are at least another step forward in getting answers in this horrifying story and holding those responsible accountable.