Murdered ASH patient worried about alleged killer who just lost major court appeal

March 31, 2008


The man suspected of strangling a fellow Atascadero State Hospital (ASH) patient to death with a towel over the weekend was on the losing end of an important, recent California Fourth District Court of Appeal decision upholding the constitutionality of Proposition 83, the so-called Jessica’s Law.

Also, hospital officials reportedly ignored at least a week of repeated warnings from patients about violent and threatening behavior by the man, Richard Earl McKee, now held on suspicion in the slaying of Lawrence Paul “Shaky” Rael late Saturday or early Sunday. And the victim’s father told several patients he was initially informed by hospital officials that his son “had hanged himself.”

Rael, found in his bed Sunday morning by hospital employees, was killed sometime after 10:30 p.m. Saturday, after he talked on the telephone to another patient and was said to have expressed his increasing fear of McKee.

A second victim, Raymond Chester, was injured in the attack and was discovered unconscious in his own bed after suffering damage to his limbs and ribs, according to witnesses. No further report on his condition was immediately available.

The murder and assault occurred as a federal judge in another case was demanding ASH officials show cause why they should not be held in contempt of court in the aftermath of a finding that two employees violated the civil rights of a patient.

According to a woman who answered the phone at ASH, no spokesperson would be available to talk to media on Monday regarding any issue because it is a state holiday, Caesar Chavez Day. She additionally declined to identify, or to put in touch with, the hospital’s on-call medical director for comment.

Suspect McKee until recently was considered by the California Department of Mental Health to be a mentally disordered offender (MDO). As such, he would by law be separated from other patients in the facility not similarly designated. But in mid-March, McKee was reclassified for inclusion in the sexually violent predator (SVP) program and became, in hospital lexicon, a dual-confinement patient.

McKee, 35, originally imprisoned for lewd acts on children, had sought to be released from state custody by claiming he was not dangerous to the public. McKee argued that provisions of Proposition 83, the so-called Jessica’s Law, were inadequate to insure that only those persons with a diagnosed, current mental illness — one making them dangerous to the public — could continue to be confined.

The Court of Appeal decision confirmed McKee’s involuntary commitment at ASH March 21.

Immediately after that court decision, McKee was placed in Unit 22 at ASH, and others in the SVP program said they began to inform staff that McKee was bullying and threatening people in the unit, and becoming increasingly aggressive and violent. Their claims went unheeded, according to one patient, Peter Tolls.

Rael talked on the telephone to his friend, fellow patient Ron “Bear” Barrett, according to Tolls, at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday, sounding upbeat on the one hand but also expressing fear of McKee.

In a prior case involving a similar failure to protect a patient, a federal judge ruled that two ASH employees violated one patient’s civil rights and ordered the pair to pay $1,000 to that SVP patient. The judge now wants to know why the ASH employees have not yet done so.

U.S. Central District Judge S. James Sotero ruled in December that employees Melissa A. Roper and Michael C. Groom were found to have made “a substantial departure from professional judgment, practice and standards” and thus were responsible for injuries suffered by patient Theodric Van Smith in assaults on him by other two patients.

ASH officials in that case also had been repeatedly warned, by patients, staff and state and federal law enforcement agencies that Smith might become a target of attack for his testimony against two Pelican Bay State Prison guards. Peggy Phaklides, a litigation manager for ASH, said in January the hospital is considering appealing Smith’s civil judgment.


Tags:, ASH, Atascadero State Hospital

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Member Opinions:

By: Anonymous on 5/12/08 [Delete]

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.

By: Anonymous on 4/23/08 [Delete]

Hey Just Me-

Since when did they allow SVP's internet access?

By: Anonymous on 4/14/08 [Delete]

Come on, folks. Don't make me stop this car!

By: Anonymous on 4/14/08 [Delete]

K Gee,

You could have been a perfectly usefull lamp shade and pound of soap.

By: Anonymous on 4/13/08 [Delete]

To Dr. Mengele,

Not all those behind ASH doors are sex offenders as you seem to think. Now there are very few. Your understanding of the truth and the psychiatric forensic system is not only limited – it is skewed as is that of most of the others commenting.

Too bad you can't go back in time to the Third Riech where experiments and cruelty were the norm – cruel experiments on babies and children not to mention adults. You seem bettered suited to this kind of activity.

I would buy your ticket – if only I could.

By: Anonymous on 4/5/08 [Delete]

The psychotic predators in ASH are not there for playing doctor with Suzie when they were both 10.

They are there for violently buggering her (and her brother Tommy) when the victims were 10 and the predator 20.

Gas them all.

By: Anonymous on 4/4/08 [Delete]

Most of these men have not done nothing more than what you have done when you were young playing hide and go get it. Now don't get me wrong there are some men I would never want out but I sure wish that you would educate yourself on what most of these men are in here for like being 18 and the girl was 16 now he is a svp!!!

By: Anonymous on 4/4/08 [Delete]

Are You God ?

By: Anonymous on 4/4/08 [Delete]

By: Anonymous on 4/1/08 [Delete]

Medical experiments are too good for them.

By: Anonymous on 4/1/08 [Delete]

Sorry MG but your way off base here. There are people who are labeled sex offenders (improperly in my opinion) for things like what happend to Roman Polanski but they don't end up in ASH for it..

By: Anonymous on 4/1/08 [Delete]

You couln't be more off base!

Recently 2 released sex offenders struck again.

One raped a 6 yr old boy in a library and the other killed a 61 yr old woman and almost killed her friend. The stories go on an on!

Jessica's law puts these animals away for a minimum of 25 years…which is way too short!

Sexual wackaloons can not be treated! It's a known fact!

Sexual crimes should be added to the death penalty.

If we don't protect our women and children the courts sure won't either!

If you need volunteers for a firing line…tell me where to sign up!

Bang! Die and go to hell muthafugder!

By: Anonymous on 4/1/08 [Delete]

MG you poor fuzzy headed, feeble minded retard. Please spare us the Big Brother conspiracy theories and your delusions of ASH being filled with innocent puppy lovers and political prisoners.

I suggest pumping Zyklon B through the aircon system every 30 days.

By: Anonymous on 4/1/08 [Delete]

I am appalled by the inhumanity of these comments. Many of these men have done wrong but not so wrong as to be murdered in their beds and have those on the outside jump up and down for joy. The above musings remind me of what I know of the Middle Ages or better yet The Dark Ages.

Hope that the aforementioned are never on the "wrong side of an angry accusation to the law" – you might just see a whole new world.

Just as an aside, not all the guys at ASH are legitimate sex offenders or child molesters and many are deemed so because the System has a big new expensive building to fill (Coalinga).

Be careful everyone – Big Brother is watching even you and me with lots of mental health aids and a plethora of pills to "help" us with our problems…..

By: Anonymous on 4/1/08 [Delete]

Unfortunately many of these criminals will be let back into society. If prison is for rehabilitation then we need to do the best job we can at it. SVP's should be locked up for life but it all comes down to the money. If we as a society were to implement a law that demands life or rehabiliatation through castration, I think many would choose the later.

By: Anonymous on 4/1/08 [Delete]

Come on now folks. Civil Rights, remember our civil rights. They should have a choice of options. The death penalty administered by parents of victims or penis dismemberment.

By: Anonymous on 4/1/08 [Delete]

SVP Program.. What a joke. They can't be rehabilitated. The SVP program should be a one way trip to the doctor for nutering.

By: Anonymous on 4/1/08 [Delete]

Hey Carol,


By: Anonymous on 4/1/08 [Delete]

Why can't we just castrate them all and then let them out? We would get them off the dool and put an end to their right to bare a boner.

By: Anonymous on 4/1/08 [Delete]

If I understand you right, the guy that got killed was a child molester…

Well if that is true I couldn't be more happy!


I thinks it very appropriate to let these sick sexual preditors kill themselves.

I will donate to help buy em knives or at least more towels!

So be it! What goes around comes around!

I hope he died slowly and painfully!

By: Anonymous on 3/31/08 [Delete]

Not even god cares about them.

By: Anonymous on 3/31/08 [Delete]

Very interesting development. Thanks for tipping me on it!