Patient at St. Peter hospital charged with murder in killing of another patient

Darnell D. Whitefeather

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A mentally ill patient has confessed that he killed a fellow patient at the Minnesota Security Hospital because he was angry that he was unable to see a doctor, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday in Nicollet County.

Darnell Whitefeather, 31, was charged with murder in the death of Michael Douglas, 41, and is being held in the county jail on a $1.5 million bond. He told St. Peter detectives that on Wednesday he stomped on Douglas’ head about 30 times, went to his room and then returned twice to check on Douglas because he was worried about what he’d done.

Whitefeather described how his anger over not being able to see a doctor built through the day, to the point that he felt the need to assault someone in order to get the staff’s attention. He said he only chose to assault Douglas because he knew he’d get into deeper trouble if he assaulted a staff person.

About 7:30 p.m., an hour and a half after the killing, which still had not yet been discovered by staff, Whitefeather told two security counselors that he wanted to see a doctor about his medications, the complaint states.

One counselor described Whitefeather as being “fed up” after being told he should take his concerns to nurses. Whitefeather reportedly told the counselors, “How do you guys expect me not to hurt people if you don’t help me?” The other counselor said that he then heard Whitefeather say that he had done “something bad” and that “he was angry and had to get his anger out.”

Whitefeather indicated that the counselors should go into Douglas’ room, where they found him on the floor in a pool of blood. He was dead at the scene.

Currently, one full-time psychiatrist and several part-time psychiatrists work at the hospital, which treats more than 300 patients diagnosed as mentally ill and dangerous. Turnover in the psychology and nursing ranks has been high in the last few years. At the same time, officials at the Minnesota Department of Human Services have been unable to hire a medical director to lead the staff.

The hospital is operating under a conditional license at least through the end of this year, the result of neglect and abuse cases that have highlighted the dysfunction and staffing issues that have existed there for more than five years.

Both men were housed in the treatment center’s 800 Unit, where the most volatile and newly committed patients are placed. Whitefeather, from Red Lake, has a violent history of assault and has served time in federal prison. Douglas, of Mankato, was convicted of murder in 1992, then placed on supervised release in April. He was ordered to the hospital for an evaluation in December. Whitefeather’s next court appearance is Tuesday.

Paul McEnroe • 612-673-1745

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