US: Mentally-ill man who tortured-killed woman flees hospital, caught

  • AP, Spokane, Washington
  • Updated: Apr 09, 2016 14:53 IST
The Western State Hospital in Lakewood, Washington from where the violent ex-felon escaped. (AP File Photo)

A man who escaped from a Washington state psychiatric hospital where he was held after being found mentally ill to face charges that he tortured a woman to death was found hiding under a pile of debris in the woods and apprehended without incident.

Anthony Garver, 28, was taken into custody Friday night by law enforcement in Spokane, Washington State Patrol spokesperson Todd Bartolac said. Garver crawled out a window of a locked, lower-security unit on Wednesday with another patient, Mark Alexander Adams, 58, who was caught the next day.

The escapes intensified federal scrutiny on the Western State Hospital, Washington’s largest psychiatric facility. Western State had already been under investigation for attacks on patients and staff and a failure to improve safety.

Spokane county sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said two police officers tracked Garver with the help of a police dog and found him at about 8:15pm in trees above the home of his parents. Garver was hungry, dehydrated and receiving medical treatment before being transferred to jail, the sheriff said.

Garver was charged in 2013 with tying a 20-year-old woman to her bed with electrical cords, stabbing her 24 times in the chest and slashing her throat, prosecutors said.

He had been moved to a lower-security unit of the hospital after a judge said mental health treatment to prepare him to face criminal charges was not working and ordered him held as a danger to himself or others. Garver has a history of running from law enforcement, and Knzeovich had strong words for state officials about the fact that he was able to make another run for it.

“The state of Washington needs to get a clue,” the sheriff said. “This cannot happen again.”

On Friday, the hospital revealed another patient was missing. That patient, who authorities did not consider an immediate danger to the public, has not been found since failing to return from a group outing the same day the other two men escaped. The hospital did not identify the patient. The incidents did not appear related.

US regulators already were investigating a recent violent attack on a hospital worker and a patient-on-patient sexual assault at Western State Hospital. A workplace inspection released this week found a series of missteps that posed safety risks, including unlocked rooms, unattended items that could be used as weapons and workers who abandoned their posts instead of watching patients.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has repeatedly cited the facility over safety concerns and threatened to cut millions in federal funding. An agency spokesperson says the hospital is under additional scrutiny over the escapes and recent assaults.

Garver, who bought a bus ticket from Seattle to Spokane after he escaped, had last been seen on Thursday in the Spokane area where his parents live after his father called authorities to report his son had stopped by briefly. Authorities used SWAT teams, dogs and helicopters to search for him.

Mark Alexander Adams, who escaped with Garver, had been charged with domestic assault in 2014. Like Garver, he was found too mentally ill to stand trial and a judge ordered him held at the hospital.

State officials would not explain why Garver, an ex-felon with a history of running from authorities, was kept in a lower-security area. Some high-security units require patient checks every 15 minutes but Garver was not placed in one, staffers say.

“He was in a locked area with locked windows and hourly checks,” said Kathy Spears, a spokesperson for the Department of Social and Health Services that oversees the state’s mental health care.

The history of violence at the facility stretches back years. Hundreds of employees have suffered concussions, fractures and cuts in assaults by patients, resulting in $6 million in workers’ compensation claims between 2013 and 2015. Patients also have attacked other patients, causing serious injuries.

Most recently, a patient with a history of violent behavior choked and punched a mental health technician on March 26, according to an internal report. A March 23 report said a male patient slipped out of his monitors and was found in a bathroom with another male patient, who said he was sexually assaulted.

The hospital faces new scrutiny after the two attacks and escapes, said Steven Chickering, associate regional administrator of a division of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In addition, the hospital’s safety and emergency management manager sent a memo to staff Thursday, citing numerous violations observed during a recent review.

Some of the problems involved how the hospital is laid out “but they also observed actions by staff that could pose a safety and/or security risk”, Pamela Rieta’s memo said.

Her team saw a patient wearing a long necklace, telephones with long cords, an unattended chair and other items that could be used as weapons left at the nurse’s station, the memo said.

Cabinets and lockers in activity rooms and kitchen areas were unlocked and unattended. Patients returning from ground privileges were not scanned for contraband. Several kitchen doors were propped open without staffers present, allowing patients to enter, the memo said.

The team also saw staff leave their posts “to hang out and talk ... not observing the patients”.

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