HONESDALE, PA. – The investigation into the deaths of several patients at the Farview State Hospital for the criminally insane developed on several fronts yesterday.
Wayne County Coroner Robert Jennings said he planned to subpoena Welfare Secretary Frank Beal and his regional deputy secretary, Kathryn S. McKenna, to appear at a hearing on the death of former Farview patient John Rank. The inquest is scheduled for July 21 at the Honesdale Courthouse.
Jennings said he was investigating the possibility of neglect in the death of Rank, who choked to death on March 2 on a ham sandwich while heavily sedated.
Jennings also announced that he had exhumed the body of former Farview patient Thomas L. Garrett, who died at the hospital on March 19, 1960.
Hospital records show that Garrett died as a result of sudden and unexpected pulmonary embolism. He was 37 at the time of his death.
But patients who say they witnessed it have told State Police investigators that Garrett was killed when he received a sustained beating by guards. The exhumation was done Friday.
In a third development, Jennings said he expected to release the results soon of an autopsy on the body of another Farview patient, Robert (Stonewall) Jackson. Jackson's badly decomposed body was exhumed in May from a cemetery in Sharon Hill, Delaware County, as part of Jenning's probe.
Jackson's death at age 36, on Sept 24, 1966, was attributed to a heart attack in hospital records. Witnesses have told State Police that Jackson was beaten by guards and then smothered to death with a pillow.
Governor Milton J. Shapp announced Friday that he planned to meet with Beal within the next 10 days to discuss the possibility of closing Farview.
Farview, which has 354 patients, is operated by the state Department of Public Welfare. Beal had said earlier this week that Farview should be closed and he proposed spending $50 million to build two new facilities near Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
The institution is the only facility in the state for treatment of the criminally insane.
In Wayne County, Jennings said yesterday that he planned to subpoena Beal and McKenna in order to determine whether there was neglect by hospital personnel contributing to Rank's death.
"I intend to identify the person or persons responsible if neglect is proven," Jennings said.
In the probe into Garrett's death, Jennings supervised the exhumation, which took place in the Pittsburgh area last week.
Jennings said that a complete autopsy, which will include x-rays and a toxicological report, was being done by Allegheny County Medical Examiner Cyril H. Wecht.