More than a fall, a case of possible homicide
This scenario is regarding the very sad death of Mercedes, a nineteen-year-old woman who was a patient at one of the New York State psychiatric facilities in New York City back in 1988. One of the staff members found her unconscious at the bottom of a stairwell that led to a locked ward on the second floor. An ambulance took her to a local hospital, and she died two days later without waking up. Her father hired an attorney who asked me to review the records.
The incident report stated that Mercedes had escaped from the unit and was found at the bottom of the stairs. The hospital's investigation concluded that she had fallen and sustained the fatal head injury. There was something very wrong with this assumption for three reasons. First, she was lying on her back. This is not how a person lands after tumbling down one or two flights of stairs. Even if she jumped over the banister in a suicide attempt, she could not have landed in a straight supine position.
Second, the autopsy photographs showed that Mercedes had bruises all over her body, front and back as well as her head. This could not have happened from tumbling down stairs or plummeting over the banister. Someone more than likely beat her with a blunt instrument and placed her at the bottom of the stairs so it would appear to be an accident.
Finally, the psychiatric hospital record revealed that Mercedes was in seclusion during the prior evening for "acting abusively toward staff." Then she mysteriously "disappeared." Putting these facts together gives cause to suspect foul play. It was surprising to read in the autopsy report that the medical examiner ruled that the death was an accident rather than a homicide.