CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Supreme Court is sending investigators to the Industrial Home for Youth within days to look into problems at the center, after a report in The Charleston Gazette earlier this week.
Chief Justice Margaret Workman is writing an order that will be signed by the end of the week directing court staff to review records at the Industrial Home as well as other Division of Juvenile Services facilities if necessary, said Steve Canterbury, the court's administrative director.
Workman set up a commission earlier this month to look at the Industrial Home and the Kenneth "Honey" Rubenstein Center in Davis, though the commission could expand its scope.
"She's not waiting to the July 11 meeting. She wants to get information," Canterbury said of the chief justice. "The recent Gazette story is not dissimilar -- but far more tragic -- to other reports that have filtered through the court regarding certain operational issues at the Industrial Home for Youth."
On Wednesday, the Gazette reported that Benjamin Hill, 18, who died mysteriously at the center on Feb. 23, 2009, may have died of an overdose of an antidepressant he was prescribed. The documents were provided to the Gazette by an employee of the Industrial Home, which is located on the Harrison-Doddridge county line.
A police investigation, an autopsy report from the state medical examiner's office and an internal report from the Industrial Home all failed to determine how Hill died.
"The information in the story, if it turns out to be true, is shocking and alarming. There appears to be a lack of clarity in the procedures and they're also going to be inevitable questions raised in how the medical examiner conducted the autopsy," Canterbury said.
"However, I underscore that this is all unconfirmed and having worked in a system of secure facilities, I know things may sometimes appear to be what they turn out not to be on further examination," said Canterbury, a former director of the state Regional Jail Authority.
The antidepressant prescribed to Hill, trazodone, is not listed in his autopsy toxicology report. But records from Hill's file at the Industrial Home show him taking the drug on Feb. 22, 2009 -- the day before he died.
Included in the documents sent to the Gazette is a copy of an unsigned handwritten letter, which the employee said is from a resident of the Industrial Home who was a friend of Hill's. In the letter, the juvenile says he gave two other residents a total of 20 trazodone pills and that those residents gave the pills to Hill, so he could kill himself.