A 28-year-old Ellicott City man who killed his mother and his family's teen-age boarder during a psychotic episode three years ago is suing the hospital where he was diagnosed with anxiety and released one day before the killings.
Benjamin Morgan Hawkes, who is confined indefinitely at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup, the state's maximum-security psychiatric hospital, alleges that Howard County General Hospital's medical staff made a series of mistakes Feb. 10, 2001, when he sought treatment in the emergency room.
As a result, Hawkes was "willfully, recklessly and wantonly released ... at a time when he was in a psychotic state and was foreseeably an obvious extreme danger to himself and to others," according to the lawsuit, which calls the deaths of Mary Jane Hawkes, 59, and Teena Wu, 18, a "foreseeable consequence."
"It's his position, I think rightfully so, if he had been attended to according to standard psychiatric care, he would have been kept there and this wouldn't have happened," Hawkes' lawyer, John E. Harris Sr., said yesterday.
The lawsuit seeks $10 million in damages.
Hawkes' suit comes on the heels of two others this year - including one from Wu's family - alleging that negligence by the hospital and its doctors in psychiatric cases contributed to a homicide or suicide within a day or two.
In the other incident, Kevin Allen Virgil committed suicide after shooting at his girlfriend and barricading himself in an Ellicott City apartment. He had been released from the hospital two days before the August 2001 incident.
Mary Patton, a spokeswoman for the hospital, declined to comment on pending litigation. A lawyer listed on the Hawkes complaint, Michael J. Baxter, did not return a call seeking a comment.
But in court filings from the Wu case, the hospital argues that Hawkes "specifically denied" that he was suicidal or homicidal and even told authorities later that he avoided telling doctors and nurses what he was really thinking because he was afraid they were part of a conspiracy.
The lawsuit comes more than three years after Hawkes, who had previously been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was suffering from paranoia, walked four miles from a friend's house to his parents' on Wild Filly Court. He killed his mother and Wu with a sledgehammer and knives, according to court testimony.
Hawkes was later found not criminally responsible for the killings and committed to Perkins, where Harris said he has been making "satisfactory improvement."