The deaths of at least two military veterans who were patients at the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg have been ruled homicides, according to a USA Today report.
The newspaper reported Wednesday that an armed forces medical examiner ruled the death of U.S. Air Force veteran George Nelson Shaw Sr. was a homicide, making his death at least the second one to be ruled a homicide amid an investigation into up to 11 suspicious deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in 2018.
Shaw’s daughter, Melody Wood, talked with USA Today this week, telling a reporter that her family learned of the nature of her father’s death after investigators with the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General asked to exhume her father’s body for an autopsy last winter.
Shaw served in the Air Force for 28 years, and even worked at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center for eight years, according to his obituary.
Shaw died April 10, 2018, one day after retired U.S. Army Sgt. Felix “Kirk” McDermott died.
McDermott’s death also was ruled a homicide by an Armed Forces medical examiner, and McDermott’s family, likewise, learned of the ongoing investigation after VA officials asked to disinter McDermott’s body in October 2018, according to a claim against the government filed by McDermott’s daughter.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said this week the investigation into suspicious deaths at the hospital opened on July 2 or 3, 2018. All of the patients whose deaths are part of the investigation died of significant hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
Manchin is a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
He said doctors at the hospital, on June 18, 2018, reported to the Clarksburg Quality Management team eight episodes of low blood sugar with no identified medical cause during the prior nine months.
The VA Inspector General’s Office on Tuesday formally confirmed that it is working with federal law enforcement officers to investigate the deaths.
There is a person of interest in the case, but no arrests had been made as of Thursday. Manchin said in a statement that the person no longer is in contact with patients at the hospital, but no other information regarding the extent of that person’s affiliation with the hospital has been made public.
Manchin said Wednesday that he had spoken with VA Inspector General Michael Missal and sent a letter to him and to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, urging them to quickly conclude the investigation.
“In the interest of assisting grieving family members and restoring public confidence across West Virginia, I urge you to quickly complete your investigation into the potential homicides resulting from unexplained episodes of hypoglycemia at the Louis A. Johnson Medical Center (VAMC) in Clarksburg, West Virginia,” Manchin wrote in the letter. “I also ask you to contact grieving family members and share as much information as you can with them. Further, I ask you to establish a crisis hotline to answer questions from impacted Veterans and their families. As of this morning, seven families have reached out to me, and they deserve answers and all of our support.”
Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., released a statement Thursday saying veterans deserved the highest quality of care.
“The tragic deaths of our nation’s heroes at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg must be fully investigated to uncover the truth, and oversight must be provided to ensure this will never happen again,” Miller said. “I grieve with the families and friends of these individuals during this sad time and will be awaiting the findings of the investigation.”