Local News

Elderly V.A. Hospital Patient Undergoing Evaluation

Posted January 6, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— Two days after a 100-year-old patient was beaten to death at a veteran's hospital, officials want to know if anything could have been done to prevent the killing.

No charges have been filed so far. An in-house investigation has identified a 77-year-old patient as a suspect. Daniel Mueller, a spokesman for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, says the probe has uncovered enough details to prompt a board of inquiry.

Hospital officials say they aren't sure the 77-year-old man knew what he was doing. Investigators say the patient was angry that someone was making noise near his first-floor room on Friday night, and he assumed it was 100-year-old George Beaty Jr.

The 77-year-old man is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation at the Durham Veterans Medical Center.

The FBI and the hospital are conducting independent investigations into the killing.

Authorities said earlier that there were no plans for security changes at the hospital.

Beaty died late Saturday, one day after the attack at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center's extended care unit. The Friday night attack fractured Beaty's skull, Mueller said.

``There may be some question as to whether or not he was competent enough to understand the gravity of what he was doing,'' Mueller said.

Beaty was in bed at 11:15 p.m. Friday when he was struck in the head with a walker. Both Beaty and his suspected assailant had been patients since 1993, in the extended care unit, which is similar to a nursing home, but were not roommates.

Six nurses and assistants were working on their floor when authorities said the attack occurred at 11:15 p.m. Friday.

The center's 100 patients are encouraged, but not required, to go to bed by 11 p.m.

``In general, it's a residence, and we want to encourage the patients to think of it as their own home,'' Mueller said. ``There's a pretty high level of independence.''

The FBI joined hospital police in investigating the attack since it occurred at the federally-operated hospital.

VA officials also will study whether proper policies and procedures are in place and that those procedures were followed. VA officials spent Saturday talking to other patients on Beaty's ward and to concerned family members.

Beaty was born on June 26, 1896, on his family's tobacco farm near Smithfield. During World War I he worked as an orderly at a military hospital, said his grandson, Wes Eason Jr.

Beaty returned to Johnston County after the war and farmed on the family homestead. He and his second wife, Grace, married about 40 years ago after his first wife died. Beaty had two children, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

``His love of his life was Grace,'' said Eason. ``That's what he lived for.''

Failing health prompted the move from an assisted-living home, where Beaty had spent the previous 30 years.

Eason and his mother, who is Beaty's daughter, had visited the hospital less than four hours before the attack. Beaty had slowed down considerably since suffering a stroke last year, but his mind remained sharp.

``He was a strong man,'' Eason said. ``He cut grass up until he was 93.''

- From staff and wire reports