The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 24, 2014

Charges filed in St. Peter Security Hospital murder

Fellow inmate charged in murder at Security Hospital

By Josh Moniz

---- — ST. PETER — Three murder charges were filed Friday against the man suspected of stomping a fellow inmate to death at the Minnesota Security Hospital.

Darnell Whitefeather, 31, was charged in Nicollet County District Court with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of third-degree murder for allegedly killing fellow patient Michael Douglas, 41, on Wednesday night at the hospital. The second-degree murder charges included one count with intent that was not premeditated and one count without intent.

Whitefeather told police Wednesday he assaulted Douglas because he was angry with staff for not allowing him to talk with a doctor about his medication, according to the criminal complaint. He allegedly told police he felt that assaulting someone was the only way to get their attention. Whitefeather reportedly told police officers that he had no issues with Douglas and only selected him because he feared punishment if he assaulted hospital staff.

Whitefeather said he entered Douglas' room around 6 p.m. and punched him in the face, knocking him to the ground. Whitefeather said he proceeded to stomp on Douglas' head, estimating he struck him up to 30 times, according to the complaint.

Whitefeather said he left the room after the attack but returned twice because he was worried about Douglas not getting up. He said he believed Douglas was still breathing during this time.

Whitefeather asked security counselor Shane Bohnert for laundry detergent around 6:50 p.m. Bohnert gave it to him and said he then left the unit. He said he later responded to the security alert and learned Whitefeather had made admissions about an assault. He said he checked the washing machine, where he found clothing items and a tennis shoe that appeared to have blood on it.

Whitefeather talked to security counselor Reynaldo Diaz around 7:30 p.m. about still wanting to speak with a doctor. Diaz reportedly told Whitefeather to talk with the nursing staff about his immediate concerns.

"How do you guys expect me not to hurt people if you don't help me?" Whitefeather said.

Diaz asked Whitefeather whether he intended to hurt people now or in the future. White said "tonight" and said he had done "something bad." Under further questioning, he said he was angry and had to get his anger out. Whitefeather directed Diaz to Douglas' room, where he was found in a pool of blood.

Hospital officials secured the area, notified staff of an emergency and then called both police and ambulance service.

St. Peter police reported receiving the call for the incident at 7:53 p.m. When officers arrived, ambulance crews were leaving the area and told police Douglas was pronounced dead.

Whitefeather's bail was set for $1.5 million without conditions and $1 million with conditions. Nicollet County Attorney Michelle Zehnder Fischer said Whitefeather will be turned over to the Minnesota Department of Human Services if he posts bail. She said she was unsure how the department would proceed with placement if that occurred.

At the Friday bail hearing, Whitefeather was assigned a public defender. He did not speak except for "yes" and "no" responses during the proceedings.

Whitefeather's criminal past includes a robbery at knifepoint and an assault in 2001. He was committed as mentally ill last October.

Douglas had a criminal history as well. He was previously convicted of second-degree murder in 1992 in Mankato. He served 21 years in prison. He also had a history of mental health problems going back to age 12, according to court commitment records.

The court set Whitefeather's next hearing for Tuesday. The hearing will involve the public defender explaining the charges to him.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services has increased staffing in high-acute units at the hospital in the wake of the murder. The increase in staffing will last until Monday, and then will be re-evaluated to determine if further need exists.