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Mysterious Deaths at Florida Psychiatric Hospitals

Chronic underfunding for mental health services leaves patients to pay the price, sometimes even paying with their lives.

By True Crime WriterPublished 2 years ago 4 min read

Florida’s mental health system is chronically underfunded, resulting in inadequate and insufficient care to the state’s most vulnerable and medically needy individuals. Whilst the state spends a greater portion of its mental health funding on state psychiatric hospitals, the already low $37.28 SMHA expenditure per capita rate leaves gaps in care -and far too often, patients pay a heavy price. In some cases, patients are abused by staff or other patients, left seriously injured or debilitated, or even die after overworked or improperly trained psychiatric hospital staff make serious mistakes or otherwise act negligently in their duty of care.

Rashida Willis

Two days before Christmas 2011, an eight-month-pregnant Rashida Willis was locked inside the medical wing at Florida State Hospital. The schizophrenic woman who had been a patient at the hospital since October 2011 did not feel well this particular day, soon realizing something was wrong with the baby.

She had struggled with hypertension during the pregnancy but had not received medical/obstetric care since her admission into the hospital due to a lack of an obstetrician on staff.

Willis shared her concerns with staff members, suggesting perhaps she was in labor. The staff members ignored her complaints because she wasn’t due until January 11, 2012. Staff sent Willis back to her room, telling her she would get an ultrasound after Christmas.

Inside her room, Willis writhed and cried in pain. She bled profusely and begged staff to take her concerns seriously. Finally, staff members called emergency services. Willis was transported by helicopter to a local hospital.

Willis delivered a beautiful baby boy born brain dead as a result of complications during the labor. He spent the next eight months of his life in the hospital on life support. He passed away on August 3, 2012.

Investigators with the Florida State Hospital quickly took action, terminating all staff members associated with the incident. Another supervisor involved in the matter resigned. One nurse, Kathryn Cottle, was charged with felony abuse of a disabled adult and faced up to five years behind bars if convicted.

The court found Cottle not guilty of the charge. She twice appealed her termination from the hospital but it was rejected each time.

Willis and her family filed a lawsuit against Florida State Prison. They were awarded $1 million in the matter.

James Bragman

James Bragman seriously injured himself after diving from a stairway headfirst at South Florida State Hospital in 2010. Five months later, he jumped to his death from an eighth-floor parking garage after a doctor’s visit.

As the three staff members left the doctor’s office, Bragman darted out of an elevator and jumped to his death.

Staff workers transporting Bragman did not read over the paperwork provided to them which detailed the previous suicide attempt. Special precautions should have been taken that day to ensure Bragman did not hurt himself. Yet the three staff workers who transported him to the doctor’s office that day had no idea of the special circumstances related to the schizophrenic patient.

Mental Health Technician Lavonia Smiley was cited for providing inadequate supervision to patients.

Luis Santana

On July 6, 2011, a highly-medicated 42-year-old Luis Santana died in a scalding bathtub at the South Florida State Hospital. The water temperature in the tub was 118 degrees, causing second-degree burns across the man’s body. By the time workers found Santan, his skin was “sloughing” off his chest, abdomen, face, arms, legs, and back.

Santana was a paranoid schizophrenic who took five medications each day. He had attempted to harm himself once before, prompting hospital policy to enforce checks on him every 15-minutes.

Patricia Bush, the Mental Health technician on duty at the time, missed one of the 15-minute checks. At the next 15-minute interval, Bush found him floating beneath the faucet with his mouth open.

The Medical Examiner, Lance G. Davis, ruled Santana died from “undetermined causes.”

Bush was terminated from her position with the facility after the death. She failed to report the incident to the Department of Children and Families abuse hotline as required by state law.

Authorities at the psychiatric facility installed a hot water monitoring system after this incident.

Miguel Menéndez-Carrera

Miguel Menendez-Carerra was 57 at the time of his 2015 murder. While imprisoned at the Florida State Hospital, Menedez-Carerra was beaten to death by 24-year-old Deontra French and 21-year-old Christppher Simpson, fellow patients at the facility.

The pair attacked Menendez-Carerra with sock-covered fists after they suspected him of “snitching.” An employee intervened but did not separate the three patients.

The following morning, Menendez-Carrera, a paranoid schizophrenic, threw urine on French and Simpson. The two men retaliate by beating the man until he lay unconscious on the floor.

Guards attempted to separate the three men when French pushed through them and jumped with both feet on Menedez-Carrera’s head, causing a shard of sinus bone to lodge in his lung. Menendez-Carrera died in the hospital three days later.

Simpson was deemed incompetent to stand trial while French received 10-years at the Florida State Prison on a manslaughter conviction.


About the Creator

True Crime Writer

The best of the worst true crime, history, strange and Unusual stories. Graphic material. Intended for a mature audience ONLY.

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