Va. Officials Investigating Clinic Over Release of Suspect in Killing

By Chris L. Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 3, 2007

State mental health officials have launched an investigation into the actions of a Fairfax County psychiatric clinic after a woman who was briefly taken there for treatment allegedly killed her boyfriend less than an hour after being released.

The Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Substance Abuse Services, which licenses and monitors the clinics run by local mental health agencies, has started to interview staff and look through records at the Woodburn Center for Community Mental Health in Annandale. Fawn C. Scott was taken there voluntarily by Fairfax City police last month after she had an argument with her boyfriend.

Police have said an officer stayed with Scott until a mental health provider came for her. Less than an hour later, Scott returned to her apartment and allegedly stabbed Dexter O. Richardson Sr., 50. Scott has been charged with murder. It is unclear under what conditions Scott left the clinic.

Meghan McGuire, a spokeswoman for the state mental health agency, said the investigation was routine and part of normal agency practice designed to see whether the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, which runs Woodburn, committed procedural violations. She said any "critical incident" involving a client could trigger a review.

"In this case, the alleged crime committed by someone using the services of a program the department licenses would prompt us to determine whether any regulatory violations may have occurred," she said.

A spokeswoman for Fairfax County, which is temporarily handling media inquiries for the community services board, said she could not comment.

The case is the latest to draw unwelcome attention to Virginia's mental health system. The system has come under intense scrutiny since a troubled Fairfax County man killed 32 people and himself at Virginia Tech in April. Seung Hui Cho had been ordered into outpatient treatment by a court 16 months before the killings but never received the care. But the community services board that serves the Virginia Tech area didn't receive the order and therefore failed to follow up, as required by state law.

This week, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that a man accused in the stabbing death of an elderly woman in that city suffered from a schizophrenic condition and had not been taking his court-ordered medication. The paper reported that the local mental health agency visited the accused man 11 times in the months before the killing. McGuire said the department is investigating that incident as well.

Staff writer Tom Jackman contributed to this report.

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