Atascadero State Hospital has been accused of trying to cover up its role in the 2014 murder of one patient by another, according to a lawsuit filed by one of the institution's former staff members.
In the lawsuit, former ASH clinical social worker April Grundfor claimed the hospital officials ignored her warnings about patient Adam Paul Cary, who went on to murder roommate Kevin Turner in May of 2014. The lawsuit also states that Grundfor was fired after she was ordered by her superiors to alter her clinical notes related to Turner’s death.
According to the lawsuit, Grundfor had become concerned about Cary, who had engaged in multiple violent acts against other patients in the weeks leading up to the murder. On the day of the murder, Cary reportedly asked to speak with Grundfor, and hospital staff warned her that it wouldn’t be safe to be alone in a room with him. Grundfor also claimed she saw a nurse reading a note by Cary that stated he wanted to “harm” another staff member or a patient. When Grundfor tried to warn an ASH doctor, the lawsuit said he made an adjustment in Cary’s medication regimen, and then went back to reading a book.
Despite the prior incidents and the warnings, ASH failed to place Cary in a more restrictive unit or under specialized observation. Later that day, Grundfor and the doctor responded to a “red light” alarm in the dorm-style room Carey shared with Turner. Grundfor said she saw a janitor holding Cary down, while Turner lay injured and dying.
“Turner lay on his bed convulsing and gasping what appeared to be his dying breaths,” the lawsuit states. “His face was covered in drying blood.”
Cary was convicted of Turner’s murder in 2016, and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
In the wake of Turner’s death, Grundfor spoke with a detective and wrote an internal note about the death and the circumstances surrounding it. According to the lawsuit, Grundfor was discouraged from finalizing that note and was even asked by supervisors about how many copies of the note she made.
In the lawsuit, Grundfor claims she was moved to a new work area where she did not have access to a private phone, and was denied access to patient records. Less than one month after Turner’s murder, Grundfor received a disciplinary referral for “having difficulty with professional relationships.” She received another disciplinary letter 12 days later.
Grundfor was fired in late June 2014. The lawsuit charges that her ousting was ASH’s attempt to punish and silence a whistleblower for “reporting incompetency, lack of caring, and potential danger to the safety of patients.”
Department of State Hospitals spokesman Ken Paglia declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing agency policy.
Grundfor’s complaint is the second lawsuit against ASH related to Turner’s murder. Turner’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in April 2015. That lawsuit remains ongoing in SLO County Superior Court.