Perkins patient was strangled, police say

By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A patient at a psychiatric hospital for violent offenders slipped into another patient's room over the weekend, kissed her and strangled her to death with shoelaces, according to court documents made public Monday.

The woman who was killed, Susan Sachs, had been committed to the Clifton T. Perkins state hospital in Jessup since 2004 after fatally stabbing Joyce Hadl, 71, a social worker. Hadl had tried to help Sachs and had taken her into her home in Chevy Chase.

"Life continues to have these horrific situations," Hadl's surviving sister, Ina Samuel, 74, said Monday, recalling her sister's adventurous travel and commitment to her patients. "I miss her very, very much. . . . We could have shared so much at this stage of our lives."

Sachs, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, was killed in a medium-security wing at the hospital. It was the first slaying at the hospital that officials could recall.

The patient accused of killing her, El Soundani El-Wahhabi, also known as Saladin Taylor, was sent to Perkins after he killed someone in Baltimore in the 1990s, according to court records. He had a history of violence against women, state police said in court records.

David Paulson, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which runs the hospital, said a review was underway.

Lt. Col. William Pallozzi with the Maryland State Police said detectives were unsure of a motive. They found two 36-inch shoelaces tied end to end but did not know where they came from.

Their case began Sunday morning.

Sachs's roommate in Wing 4 woke up, noticed she was lying on her bed facedown and appeared to be cool to the touch, according to a state police arrest affidavit. The roommate summoned a nurse.

When Sachs was turned over, officials saw what appeared to be a long shoelace wrapped around her neck.

The investigators reviewed surveillance video from Saturday night.

On the video, Sachs is seen cleaning and socializing in a common area of the wing. From 8 to 9 p.m., she spoke to El-Wahhabi. He lived three doors down from Sachs, and the two were friends.

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