Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sex predator accused of killing inmate

Two men were serving time in the same unit at Atascadero State Hospital
By John Simerman

A sexually violent predator committed to Atascadero State Hospital was found dead Sunday morning and another man in the same unit was arrested on suspicion of murder, a hospital spokesman said Monday.

Spokesman Craig Dacus said he thought it would be the first patient homicide in the 54-year history of a facility that houses about 1,000 patients near Highway 101 south of Paso Robles.

The body of Lawrence Rael, 37, was found in his bed about 8 a.m., Dacus said. Police arrested Richard McKee, 44, a sexually violent predator who was committed to the state hospital in 2005.

Dacus said he did not know if a weapon was used, but McKee also was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon for a separate incident with a different victim the same day. An investigation into Rael's death continued Monday.

"How that dead body got there we can't definitely say," Dacus said. "We're waiting for the investigation to pan out."

Court records show that McKee of San Diego was convicted in 1991 of lewd acts against an 11-year-old baby sitter and in 1998 for lewd acts against his 8-year-old niece. According to the Megan's Law Web site, Rael also was convicted for lewd acts with a child younger than 14.

McKee was originally admitted as a mentally disordered offender, then in August was reclassified as a sexually violent predator, or SVP, and switched units.

Both men were housed with other SVPs in Unit 22, where each patient lives in his own narrow room. Only the
units themselves, and not the rooms, are locked at night, Dacus said.

Only 36 SVPs are left at Atascadero, with more than 400 having moved to Coalinga State Hospital, which opened in 2005. Peter Tolles, a former Unit 22 patient now at Coalinga, said that those remaining at Atascadero were held in two units, with Unit 22 designated for more "dysfunctional men that have both medical and emotional problems."

Tolles said his complaints about fights in the unit went ignored. Nancy Kincaid of the state Department of Mental Health said she could not document the unit's history of assaults Monday, but she reiterated that the agency investigates all complaints and allegations.

Tolles said he knew Rael as "Shaky," for his frequent shaking, even in his sleep. Rael entered Atascadero in 1998. "He was a pretty happy-go-lucky, jovial individual in comparison to many of the men on the unit," Tolles said.

McKee was being held Monday at San Luis Obispo County Jail. After they found the body, officials placed the state hospital on lockdown for most of the day Sunday, Dacus said.

Reach John Simerman at 925-943-8072 or

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Let’s face the truth; Department of Mental Health is a corrupt organization. The status quo in respect to how they conduct business at Atascadero, Coalinga, Patton, Napa State Hospitals continues under the same old guard from the late 70s up thru the early 90s.
For example Staffs at Atascadero State Hospital are more corrupt than patients, and as far as they the staffs are concern, the patients have no credibility and can never be taken serious by authorities investigating criminality, against patients by the same staff members charged to keep the facility safe.

Some high ranking staff members continues to run their criminal enterprise at these facilities utilizing patients as their vehicle of terror against staff and patients, whom management considers to be trouble makers or whistle blowers.