I-TEAM: Baker County Sheriff’s Office found hospital staff reported crimes late, altered evidence

Sheriff’s Office says Northeast Florida State Hospital made improvements after email was sent

Northeast Florida State Hospital (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4JAX - All rights reserved.)

BAKER COUNTY, Fla. – In a harsh email sent this past May, the Baker County Sheriff’s Office found the staff at the Northeast Florida State Hospital, or NEFSH, reported crimes late and destroyed or altered evidence in criminal investigations.

The News4JAX I-TEAM has obtained a copy of the email and confirmed with the Baker County Sheriff’s Office that it was sent from a detective to employees at the Department of Children and Families, which runs the hospital.

The sheriff’s office says the hospital made improvements after the email was sent.

Detectives said they were infuriated with what they discovered at NEFSH. So much so, the sheriff’s office told the hospital to report crimes to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement — not the sheriff’s office.

Lt. David Mancini sent this email to two DCF employees in May 2022.

Mancini said, based on facts and evidence, there were “unreported, unnoticed or ignored crimes occurring a NEFSH.”

Mancini said the concerns were so bad they “directly impact murder investigations.”

In addition, Mancini said the department might not have responded to the hospital for investigations: “with the facts, evidence, witnesses, or victims in the case being altered, damaged, destroyed, concealed, manipulated, vanished, or dead when NEFSH reports the crime to the Sheriff’s office.”

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Baker County Undersheriff Randy Crews instructed deputies not to arrest any patients at NEFSH unless they are charged with murder, battery resulting in great bodily injury or disfigurement, or rape.

The email goes on to say, if they are called to an incident and the crime scene has been cleaned up, refer NEFSH staff to FDLE.

BCSO would no longer investigate alleged crimes when there is a delay in reporting, or the crime scene has been disturbed.

We’ve covered two cases at the hospital where things described in the email allegedly happened: Markeith Lloyd in 2020 and Mark Stone in 2021. They were both forensic patients, meaning they were sent to NEFSH accused of committing crimes but were deemed unfit to stand trial. Both men are accused of attacking another patient at the hospital — one victim died from their injuries, and the family of the other victim also said their injuries caused their death. In both cases, reports show several hours went by before the hospital reported the crimes to the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office confirmed to the I-TEAM that since the May email was sent, NEFSH staff has been diligent in addressing those issues and is taking steps to ensure crime scene integrity as well as the safety of staff and patients.

We asked the sheriff’s office for an interview, it instead sent us a statement saying criminal incidents at NEFSH are handled the same way any other incidents would be in the county.

We are expecting a statement from DCF on this email, as well, and we will update this story when we receive it.

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