Johns Hopkins gynecologist Dr. Nikita A. Levy wrote an apology letter to his wife before wrapping a plastic bag around his head Monday and pumping it with helium, killing himself in the basement of his Towson-area home, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the investigation.
Along with the letter, he left behind multiple hard drives, computers and servers that police have seized and are scrutinizing, police said. More than 300 of Levy's current and former patients have contacted officers, fearing that they are pictured in images he is accused of secretly capturing, Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, state health regulators have launched an inquiry of their own into an independent review that Johns Hopkins Medical System officials are conducting, a health official said.
Details that emerged Wednesday painted a clearer picture of the circumstances surrounding the allegations against Levy, who worked at an East Baltimore clinic. Police say the longtime women's community health physician used devices including a camera hidden in a pen to surreptitiously record his patients. Hopkins officials say they first learned of the allegations Feb. 4, two weeks before he was found dead.
Levy's wife called county police to the house about 7 a.m Monday. The officers who discovered his body also found a note inside his car apologizing to his wife, saying he did not want to "see you suffer with the truth," according to sources.
It was not the first time police had visited the Hampton Lane home. In executing a search warrant there days earlier, police said, they found the computer equipment amid an "extraordinary amount of evidence." Levy was let go by Hopkins Feb. 8.
Police declined to elaborate on what kind of servers were seized or what was on them, citing the ongoing investigation. Servers are generally used to store large amounts of information, and can make that information available to other users on a network.
Levy's lawyer declined to comment; the Levy family has not commented on the investigation.
Baltimore County police were also called to the home the week before Levy's suicide, spokeswoman Elise Armacost said. They visited at 9:10 a.m. on Feb. 13, responding to a 911 call. Levy told officers he was fine and police left without filing a report, Armacost said.
County police said the medical examiner's office performed an autopsy Monday, but results are still pending.
Hopkins and police officials said Wednesday that as the investigation began early this month, officers asked hospital leaders to keep details quiet. Some patients had criticized the hospital this week when the allegations came to light because they had received a letter stating that Levy was no longer seeing patients, but not disclosing why.
Hopkins spokeswoman Kim Hoppe said in a statement that as soon as Hopkins officials suspended Levy, some time after receiving the Feb. 4 tip, they notified patients of his departure. But because evidence was still being collected at that time, they "did not know about the extent of the activities" and did not include them in the initial letter, the statement said.
"On Monday, once we were cleared by police to release more information, we sent a second more detailed letter," Hoppe said Wednesday in an email.
Guglielmi confirmed that they had asked Hopkins officials not to disclose details of the early investigation to protect its integrity.
"If Dr. Levy were still alive, the BPD would not be making any public comment on this investigation, as we'd still be in the infancy of building the case," he said. "The process was accelerated by the fact that he had taken his own life."
Hoppe did not respond to questions about when Levy was suspended and when the initial letter was sent to patients. Some patients said they received the letter the week of Feb. 11.
Hopkins officials also said this week that they sent a second letter to patients that further detailed the allegations.
State health care regulators acknowledged Wednesday an investigation to review Johns Hopkins Hospital's "internal investigation and response to these allegations," health department spokeswoman Dori Henry said. The inquiry is being conducted by the Office of Health Care Quality, responsible for ensuring quality of care at 13,000 hospitals and other health facilities across the state.
The health care quality investigations typically involve interviews, observation of current practices, and on-site review of medical records, credentialing files and personnel files, Henry said.
The regulators are not investigating the East Baltimore Medical Center, a community clinic where Levy worked, Henry said. The health care quality office does not license the clinic, but it or the Maryland Board of Physicians could initiate an investigation there, depending on the nature of a complaint received, Henry said.
The Board of Physicians would not confirm nor deny any investigation into Levy, because such reviews are confidential, said Christine Farrelly, the board's deputy director. In general, the board investigates any complaint it receives.
Investigations can begin with concerns from patients or employers, for instance. Their results are only disclosed if they result in charges or disciplinary action against a license-holder, Farrelly said. Levy had no charges or disciplinary actions against him, according to public board data.
As the investigations continue, police and hospital officials are seeking women who have grievances to air or are concerned their privacy may have been violated. Guglielmi said that many of the 300 women who have contacted police called a hotline set up for Levy's patients: 410-396-2269.
The victim advocacy group TurnAround is assisting police with talking to potential victims.
Hopkins officials set up their own call center at 855-546-3785.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun