1 HCW killed, 2 wounded at Washington-area hospitals

Employees complain about security, police measures

A hospital administrator was killed and two employees wounded in separate incidents at two Washington, DC, area hospitals this year.

One January evening, a member of the hospital's housekeeping crew found Sherry Crandell, a 50-year-old nursing administrator at Prince George's Hospital Center in Cheverly, MD, dead in her office. Crandell reportedly was seated in a chair with her hands bound behind her. She had been raped and strangled. The incident caused many employees to fear for their safety and others to complain about the way the investigation is being handled.

Prince George's County detectives have interviewed 50 men so far, including hospital employees and patients, and have asked them to voluntarily provide fingerprint and saliva samples to help them narrow the list of possible suspects, says police department spokesman Royce Holloway. Investigators will compare samples to fingerprints found at the scene and DNA evidence from the victim's body.

Investigators have not concluded that an employee or patient committed the crime, Holloway adds. All of the men interviewed agreed to provide samples, but "an upset hospital employee" notified the Washington, DC, chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, says Art Spitzer, JD, the chapter's legal director.

"Law enforcement is not supposed to work that way in this country," Spitzer says. "The police are rounding up everybody on the theory that one of them must be guilty. The Fourth Amendment was written to outlaw that, and it holds true whether you're talking about searching everybody's house or everybody's saliva."

Detectives have been interviewing employees who would have had easy access to the administrator's office, including janitors and maintenance workers. Reportedly, several of the men have complained that they are being frightened into providing samples by detectives who threaten to tell hospital management if they refuse.1

Hospital spokeswoman Lisa Schiller says the hospital will not punish anyone who refuses to provide samples.

"We're hoping everyone cooperates because we want the murderer caught," she says, "but as far as I know, it's voluntary."

Schiller also notes that the hospital is reviewing security measures to determine if there are enough guards. It is not clear how many security guards were on duty the night of the murder, and while security cameras are located in and around the building, some of them are fakes intended to deter criminals.

Members of the Professional Staff Nurses' Association at the hospital said at a news conference that employees are concerned that there are not enough security guards monitoring the building and parking lots. They also complained that doors have been propped open and that outsiders can enter the hospital unchecked after visiting hours.2

In a separate incident, two employees, a patient, and a volunteer were wounded when a gunman entered a crowded lobby at Washington (DC) Hospital Center, where he killed a visitor who had just walked in. No motive has been determined in the February shooting, and police have not apprehended a suspect.

None of the wounds to the injured people was considered life-threatening. A 47-year-old male employee was treated for a leg wound. A 77-year-old female volunteer also was shot in the leg. Both a 25-year-old male employee and a 74-year-old female patient suffered minor head wounds.

"We had a security officer within 100 feet of the incident," says William Cody, hospital security director. "But incidents like this occur so rapidly, there was no time to respond."

References

1. Pr. George's does mass DNA testing; police requesting saliva from all men questioned in hospital slaying probe. Washington Post, Jan. 30, 1998:A01.

2. Nurses union wants hospital security increased. Washington Post, Jan. 22, 1998:D07.