Hospital murder suspect made threats before attack

November 26, 2010 6:58:11 PM PST
The murder of a Napa State Hospital employee may not have been a random attack. There is also concern among employees at the hospital that the new alarms they have been given do not work properly.

ABC7 has seen the report from a nurse who says inmate Jess Massey was heard saying he was going to kill psych tech Donna Gross and another report given to hospital authorities that Massey had made a threat against another worker before the murder.

Gross was strangled Oct. 23 on the grounds of the hospital's forensics unit, the section which houses the criminally insane and most violent patients. Massey, her accused killer, is a patient convicted of slitting a woman's throat. Massey was roaming outside his unit after getting what is called a "ground pass."

Massey may have targeted Gross. Three days after the murder, another patient reported that Massey told him he was, "going to kill that staff person," but said he did not believe him.

ABC7 also learned that about two weeks before the murder, supervisors were told Massey had threatened another worker. The report says Massey said, "You know I can just kill you; I have done it before."

Crystal Johnson has been a psych tech at Napa State for 14 years. Two years ago, she wasa attacked by violent patient.

"We feel fear every day,' she said. "The individuals we serve are just so impulsive and they're more and more violent."

The inmate grabbed her by the neck and they struggled before Johnson finally activated a waistband alarm which sets off sirens and lights in the building. Johnson said no one responded.

"The alarm had been going off for what seemed like forever; he just let go and ran," Johnson said.

That is the same alarm Gross set off as she fought her assailant. Workers say they do not generally work outside buildings. Gross' alarm did go off in a nearby kitchen but it was reported as a false alarm.

Johnson says last week, the hospital distributed a new alarm meant to work outside on the grounds. The new one triggers a loud sound, but Johnson says it is not loud enough.

"The grounds in the hospital are huge and the people, the workers on the units, the likelihood of them hearing the alarms is nothing," she said.

Under a coat, the sound is muffled even more.

Johnson and other workers ABC7 spoke to say they do not feel any safer with the new alarms. They say they want more police on the premises and better security systems.

ABC7 called Napa State Hospital for a response but the calls were not returned.


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