Thursday, October 30, 2008
State officials last week opened an investigation into the latest case of an Allegheny County mental health patient connected to a violent crime.
The state Department of Public Welfare doesn't comment on the details of such investigations, but the newest one coincides with the death of 39-year-old Dawn McGuire, whose decomposing body was found Thursday in the Shadyside apartment of David Wayne Alexander.
Police have charged Mr. Alexander, 40, with homicide. He told police that he strangled Ms. McGuire, according to a criminal complaint. The pair had lived together for several months.
Mr. Alexander, who has used a wheelchair since a car accident in North Carolina a decade ago, has a history of mental illness. Last year, he signed a court-ordered plan that compelled him to seek outpatient treatment at Mercy Behavioral Health.
Ms. McGuire's death is one of at least 19 serious incidents -- which the state calls "sentinel events" -- in Allegheny County since August of last year involving people with mental health problems.
The most prominent one centers on Andrea Curry-Demus, a Wilkinsburg woman who has been charged with killing a pregnant teenager and stealing her baby.
Very few violent crimes are connected to people with mental illnesses, but this year's high-profile cases have prompted state and local officials to take a closer look at how services are provided to people who live in the community -- at a time when Mayview State Hospital is nearing closure and more patients with criminal records are being treated in unlocked facilities. [Mark Godsey]