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Elderly V.A. Hospital Patient Undergoing Evaluation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beaty died late Saturday, one day after theattack 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 wascompetent 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 thehead with a walker. Both Beaty and his suspected assailant had beenpatients since 1993, in the extended care unit, which is similar toa nursing home, but were not roommates.

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

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

``In general, it's a residence, and we want to encourage thepatients 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 attacksinceit occurred at the federally-operated hospital.

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

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

Beaty returned to Johnston County after the war and farmed onthe family homestead. He and his second wife, Grace, married about40 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 whathelived 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 thehospital less than four hours before the attack. Beaty had sloweddown considerably since suffering a stroke last year, but his mindremained sharp.

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

- From staff and wire reports

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