The decaying body of an Army veteran went undiscovered at a Massachusetts facility for a month — because no one bothered to look in an emergency exit stairwell, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
A 45-page report released Thursday detailed the disappearance and death of Timothy White, 62, whose “significantly decayed” corpse was discovered in June 2020 in a stairwell at the Bedford Veterans Quarters in Massachusetts.
White, who had recently been homeless, started living at the privately operated, VA-owned building in January 2020.
He was reported missing from his single-occupancy room on May 13 and lived just down the hall from where his body was later found nearly a month later on June 12 – having never left the building, according to the report by the VA’s Office of Inspector General.
Another resident at the facility ultimately found White’s body and he was wearing the same clothes he had on when he was last seen: a Boston Red Sox jersey, jeans and a baseball cap.
White, who was not known to leave the Bedford facility without explanation, had no cellphone or car on the campus. Investigators found that the facility’s staff, Bedford police, as well as VA authorities, “never searched” the exit stairwell where the vet’s body was ultimately discovered.
“The OIG found that Mr. White’s disappearance did not receive the attention it deserved from VA, an agency that is required by federal law to provide for the protection of all persons on its property,” the report concluded.
The facility failed to properly respond to White’s disappearance by not ordering a significant search, including not routine patrols of any part of the building where he was later found.
“An officer told OIG investigators that had VA police been patrolling Building 5 at the time of his disappearance, he believed they would have ‘absolutely’ seen Mr. White, and he would have been located significantly sooner,” the report found.
Former VA police chief Shawn Kelley also waited nearly two weeks to respond to a Bedford police request to search for White using police dogs – an effort that never materialized since the vet was a resident at the facility and not an at-risk patient, the Boston Globe reported.
“Poor decision-making, misinformation, and lack of oversight also prevented anyone at VA from encountering Mr. White during the month after he was reported missing through routine patrols or cleaning of the emergency exit stairwell in which his body was found,” the OIG report concluded.
Kelley had ordered VA police officers to stop their daily patrols of the building in February 2020, some three months before White disappeared. The VA police chief later resigned as the OIG probe was being conducted, citing health issues, a person close to the matter told the Boston Globe.
Prosecutors also looked into White’s death, but did not recommend any criminal charges in the case. A medical examiner was unable to determine exactly how he died, the newspaper reported.