UPDATED: Mentally ill man at St. Peter security hospital kills fellow resident - St. Peter MN: News

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UPDATED: Mentally ill man at St. Peter security hospital kills fellow resident

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Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014 12:30 pm | Updated: 11:05 am, Mon Apr 14, 2014.

UPDATED: Jan. 23, 12:42 p.m.

A mentally ill man is expected to be charged in the Wednesday death of a fellow Minnesota State Security hospital resident.

The victim, Michael Douglas, 41, of Blue Earth County, reportedly suffered from what appeared to be violent trauma. The Star Tribune reports his skull was crushed while in his room.

Douglas was brought to St. Peter in mid-December and was awaiting a thorough mental evaluation, the Star Tribune reported. He was convicted of second-degree murder in 1992 in Mankato, according to court records. His sentence was set to expire in 2018.

River's Edge Hospital paramedics attempted to revive Douglas, but were unsuccessful, according to a St. Peter Police Department press release.

The suspect, 31-year-old Darnell Dee Whitefeather, of Minneapolis, is currently in custody at the Nicollet County jail awaiting formal charges. He was reportedly transferred to the hospital about six weeks ago.

Whitefeather has a history of violent crime and has prior convictions for assault, theft and criminal damage, according to court records. A past resident of the Red Lake Indian Reservation, he was sentenced more than seven months in prison in 2002 for armed robbery, according to Minnesota court records.

During a separate incident, Whitefeather reportedly assaulted two men living on the reservation with a metal pipe, bashing one over the head and leaving him unconscious, according to published reports.

In January 2013, Whitefeather reportedly assaulted the director of the Bemidji Community Behavioral Health Hospital. According to published reports, he was put on probation and in July, was charged with stealing a cash register from a Bemidji coffee shop.

Anne Barry, Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, released a statement about the killing Thursday morning.

“Law enforcement is investigating,” Barry said in the statement.” We are doing everything we can to assist them. In addition to the investigation of local law enforcement, death reviews will be conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities and a Root Cause Analysis will be required by the Joint Commission. We will cooperate fully with any and all reviews into the death of the patient served by Security Hospital."

The Star Tribune has regularly reported on several serious issues at the hospital related to inappropriate staff behavior, assaults by residents and lack of professional psychiatric employees. And the hospital, once infamous for its overuse of patient restraints, has seen an inrease in the number of patients who attack both other patients and staff since relaxing some of its policies.

It has been at risk of losing its license for two years. State Legislative Auditor James Nobles has previously criticized the state-run facility, which provides treatment to more than 400 adults deemed mentally ill and dangerous, for not having enough psychiatrists. Most patients do not see a psychiatrist every month and some go three months without doing so, Nobles said in a February report.

State licensing investigators decided in June not to cite the hospital for maltreatment after allowing a delusional patient who stabbed two people in the face with pencils to keep weapons in his room, reported Minnesota Public Radio News.

Clinicians allowed the patient to have that pencil even though the patient had been committed as "mentally ill and dangerous" 14 years earlier for stabbing someone else with a pencil. The patient, who stabbed his roommate, may have gone months without seeing a psychiatrist, according to the licensing investigation.

Just this January, the Star Tribune reported on another incident at the hospital. Nurses and aides stood by while a patient turned himself into a battering ram and slammed his head repeatedly into a concrete wall, reported the Star Tribune.

To restrain a patient, staff need permission from a supervisor. But on the night in question, staff reportedly could not reach one, leaving the patient's ordeal to continue until dawn.

***

UPDATED: Jan. 23, 10:00 a.m.

A mentally ill man being held at the Minnesota State Security hospital was taken into custody Wednesday night after killing another resident, according to authorities.

The victim, Michael Douglas, 41, of Blue Earth County, reportedly suffered from what appeared to be violent trauma. The Star Tribune reports his skull was crushed while in his room. 

He was brought to St. Peter in mid-December and was awaiting a thorough mental evaluation, according to the Star Tribune. River's Edge Hospital paramedics attempted to revive Douglas, but were unsuccessful, according to a St. Peter Police Department press release.

The suspect, 31-year-old Darnell Dee Whitefeather, of Minneapolis, is currently in custody at the Nicollet County jail awaiting formal charges. He was transferred to the hospital about six weeks ago, according to Star Tribune.

Whitefeather has a history of violent crime and has prior convictions for assault, theft and criminal damage, according to court records. A past resident of the Red Lake Indian Reservation, he was sentenced more than 7 months in prison in 2002 for armed robbery, according to published reports.

Gov. Mark Dayton reportedly directed the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to begin investigating the death immediately. The state Health Department and ombudsman for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled will also be involved.

Anne Barry, Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, released the following statement about the death Thursday: 

"A patient died, apparently as a result of injuries inflicted by another patient at Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter on Wednesday evening. Law enforcement is investigating. We are doing everything we can to assist them. In addition to the investigation of local law enforcement, death reviews will be conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities and a Root Cause Analysis will be required by the Joint Commission. We will cooperate fully with any and all reviews into the death of the patient served by Security Hospital.

We express our deepest condolences to the family of the patient who died.

We are reaching out to the family and to other patients and employees affected by this tragedy."

***

St. Peter Police Department detectives are currently investigating the death of 41-year-old Michael Francis Douglas at the Minnesota State Security Hospital.

On Jan. 22, around 7:53 p.m., SPPD patrol officers responded to a radio call at the security hospital. When officers arrived at the scene, they discovered Douglas lying in his room with what appeared to be injuries caused by violent trauma.

River's Edge Hospital paramedics attempted life support which was unsuccessful.

Police arrested Darnell Dee Whitefeather, 31, for probable cause murder. He is currently being held in the Nicollet County Jail, where he is awaiting formal charges.

The St. Peter Police Department with the assistance of Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension special agents and crime scene technicians are conducting the investigation.

© 2015 Southernminn.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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