Law-enforcement authorities are investigating whether the recent death of a 35-year-old mentally ill man was connected to an assault at State Hospital South in Blackfoot.
"I don't want to get into the details of it, but there were indications that something happened to him a little while before he died," Bingham County Prosecutor Tom Moss said.Stephen Woolf, captain of the Blackfoot Police Department, said two officers were at the hospital all day Friday interviewing patients and staff.
Preliminary reports from an autopsy and from the investigation - being conducted jointly by city and county agencies - were expected early next week.
Wesley Harris, a long-term patient whose parents live in Emmett, was taken from the state hospital to Bingham Memorial Hospital on Nov. 4. Hospital records show he died there Nov. 12.
A state hospital patient who was a friend of Harris' described him as "sweet, real sweet. When he sat down, I would talk to him," said the woman, who asked not to be identified.
A doctor initially determined the cause of death was pneumonia, officials said.
The investigation was launched after a citizen raised questions about the death, said Capt. John Cowley of the Bingham County sheriff's department.
William Bonnes, administrator of State Hospital South for the past 2 1/2 years, would not take phone calls from a reporter. His office referred enquiries to Mary Keltz, spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
"We will cooperate with any law enforcement investigation," Keltz said. "And we will be referring questions to law-enforcement officials.
"I am unable to provide additional information because we do not want to interfere with law enforcement."
State Hospital South is an unaccredited state facility located at Blackfoot. It houses 142 patients from across the state. About 280 people, including three full-time psychiatrists, work there.
Bingham County Coroner Doyle Jones said Harris' body already had been transported to a Boise-area funeral home and embalmed when the autopsy was ordered Thursday. The body was to be transported back to Bingham County by Monday.