Death at Huntington psychiatric hospital investigated

By Megan Workman
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State Police are investigating the death of a patient at a state psychiatric hospital last week.The patient died Dec. 28 at Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital in Huntington, Sgt. Robert Perry said.Perry said the death followed an altercation between two hospital employees with the patient. The man became unresponsive and was taken by ambulance to another hospital, he said. No charges have been filed at this point, Perry said.Family members have confirmed that the male forensic patient was Matthew Allen Pike, 29, of Huntington. Penny Pike, Matthew Pike's mother, said she believes hospital employees are to blame."[In] my honest opinion, [the hospital employees] killed him," Pike said.The state Department of Health and Human Resources, which oversees the hospital, has confirmed that two hospital employees are suspended pending the investigation. Perry emphasized that the suspensions are hospital policy and not necessarily indicative of criminal charges. No charges have been filed at this point.Pike said her son was autistic and had the mental capacity of a 12-year-old. She last talked to him around 5 p.m. the day he died. A nurse from the hospital called her around 8 p.m. and told her that Pike couldn't breathe and that she should take someone with her to the hospital, Pike said.By the time she got to the hospital, her son was dead, Pike said. Forensic patients are in a state hospital generally because a court found them unfit to stand trial or the patient was found not guilty by reason of insanity, according to DHHR. Pike had been sentenced to 20 years in a state hospital for a 2002 arson, Penny Pike said.According to DHHR, emergency services were called to the hospital at 7:40 p.m. and the man was taken to Cabell Huntington Hospital. Bateman officials were notified of the man's death around 9:20 p.m. and called the police the next day, according to DHHR's statement.Pike said when she viewed her son's body there were marks on his face. The marks weren't there when she last visited him on Christmas Day, she said."I just want them to pay for what they did to my son," she said. "I want justice."Matthew Pike had been in the Bateman hospital for two months since being transferred from the William R. Sharpe Jr. Hospital in Weston.
"He was OK until he came down here," Penny Pike said. "He wanted to come home to be close to me. Now, I wish he had stayed."Matthew's uncle, Mark Pike, of Chesapeake, Ohio, said he's heard several different stories about what happened to his nephew. He said he found out the police were investigating Monday evening from a media outlet.
"He was 29 years old with a mind like a 10-year-old," Mark Pike said. "[Patients] are not animals; they're humans. They've got rights like everyone else does."Family members of patients at the hospital have called Pike with stories of abuse at the facility, he said."I just want to get this out in the open," he said. "I just want to let people know if they have people in these facilities or in nursing homes, don't just take them there and leave them. Regularly check on them. They don't know what's going on."Mark Pike said he is concerned now about the other patients in the hospital.Will Parsons, a Tennessee resident whose brother, Michael, is a patient at Bateman, said his brother has been a victim of abuse at the hospital as well."Michael himself has been beaten up by the staff several times," Parsons said. "He lost 20 pounds in 10 days because of the stress he has been under."
Parsons said his brother's weight loss occurred after an employee choked him. He believes the weight loss was the result of a combination of injury to his throat and the trauma of what happened to him."It's such a closed-mouth culture that they've built," Parsons said. "Nobody will investigate. Patients get beat up in there and I have personally called the police twice. They say it's out of their jurisdiction."Perry said the body has been sent to the West Virginia Medical Examiner's Office. Police are waiting to find out the cause of death.Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.
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