Three staff members at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital have retired, less than two weeks after a man with a lengthy criminal history killed a fellow patient and hospital officials launched an investigation of the incident.
El Soudani El-Wahhabi, 50, was charged with first-degree murder after video surveillance showed him entering the room of Susan Sachs about 10 p.m. Sept. 25 and leaving 10 minutes later, apparently undetected by staff members. Sachs' roommate discovered her the next morning lying facedown on the bed with a shoelace tied around her neck. According to police reports, El-Wahhabi told officers he went into Sachs' room, kissed her and then strangled her with the shoelace.
Lamont Baker, the president of the hospital union local, confirmed that three employees have retired since the murder:
•Charles Bouie, an employee who served as a security attendant-nurse, a position with both security and nursing duties.
•Linda Middleton, also a security attendant-nurse.
•Evelyn Kposowa, the acting head nurse on the ward when the killing occurred.
Bouie, Kposowa and Middleton will keep their retirement benefits, Baker said.
"They were scared they were going to get terminated in lieu of what happened," he said. "These people had 30-something years of state employment."
Bouie said in an interview, however, that while he did retire in the last week, his retirement had nothing to do with Sachs' murder and that he was not afraid of losing his job. He said he has worked for the state of Maryland for 35 years, and was working the morning shift when Sachs' body was found.
"I did not retire in connection with the incident," Bouie said. "I was getting ready to retire anyway because my momma had passed and my wife was sick."
The hospital, a state-run psychiatric facility that houses individuals with mental illnesses who have been charged with serious crimes, could take other disciplinary actions after an investigation is finished.
David Paulson, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which oversees Perkins, said the probe into the events surrounding the killing continues. He said there is no specific timeline for the investigation at the state's only maximum-security hospital.
"Everything is on the table," Paulson said. "That's going to be a process that takes into account a whole lot of factors, including the institution, and physical as well as personnel abilities."
The Joint Commission, a national organization that accredits Perkins and other hospitals, will also be reviewing the incident, a standard move when serious incidents occur, said spokesman Kenneth Powers.
According to a report by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, there were 129 patient-on-patient assaults at Perkins in 2009, up from 100 in 2008.
El-Wahhabi and Sachs were placed on the same co-ed hallway after being moved to a medium-security ward this July, despite El-Wahhabi's history of sexual violence against women. He came to Perkins after being found not criminally responsible in the 1995 killing of Mona Johnson, who was 26 at the time, after police found a piece of his tongue at the crime scene. Also known as Saladin Taylor, he had previously been found by a judge to be mentally incompetent to stand trial on charges that he had sexually assaulted his sister-in-law while wearing lingerie.
El-Wahhabi is being held at Howard County Detention Center.