NAPA (KCBS/AP) – Grief counselors were made available to the staff at Napa State Hospital on Monday, in response to the weekend murder of a longtime employee, allegedly by a mental patient at the facility.

Napa County prosecutors announced plans Monday to file charges against the mentally ill patient, Jesse Willard Massey, 37, who stood accused of robbing and murdering nurse Donna Gross, 54, of Concord.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

Gross’ body was found in a hospital courtyard Saturday. Massey was arrested the next day.

Authorities initially declined to say how Gross was killed. A coroner’s report has not been released by early Monday afternoon.

“Mr. Massey had a grounds pass which allowed him to exit the secure building he was in, into a secure outdoor area,” explained Napa County Sheriff’s Capt. Tracey Stuart. “So that’s the outdoor area where it occurred.”

Gross was reportedly on her dinner break at approximately 6:00 p.m. Saturday.

Massey was one of hundreds of mentally ill criminal defendants at the hospital who were declared mentally unfit for trial.

“Ninety two percent of our population comes from the criminal justice system so they do bring with them many unpredictable behaviors,” explained Jennifer Turner, spokeswoman for the State Department of Mental Health, which was charged with running the hospital.

In the wake of the tragedy, complaints mounted that the hospital was not a safe place to work. Some even said it had been simply a matter of time before someone was killed there.

According to Turner, safety improvements were always a consideration.

“Recently the hospital has actually implemented safety measures such as Rounds on Grounds program, community policing and work groups that address incidents as they arise to further reduce aggressive actions.”

“I would say there’s plenty of workers there that don’t feel safe. And they have good reason, as you can see, not to feel safe,” countered Brad Leggs, president of the union that represented Napa’s Psychiatric Technicians.

He called for the immediate implementation of a walking grounds patrol.

“It would just increase the security that’s already there. Right now we don’t have a grounds patrol that walks around and keeps their eyes on stuff and we need that in place.”

“We have difficult patients,” Leggs added. “We expect that things will happen on the units but in this case, this was a staff member who was on their break. They were outside on grounds and this incident took place.”

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (6)
  1. Nurse Ratchett says:

    BS!!! Why are these criminals even alive?? These sickos are not mentally ill. They are completely evil and commited a crime and they happened to get a good attorney that got them the “criminally insane” to stand trial. This should of NEVER happened. Burn this place with all those evil criminals inside. My thoughts and prayers are with Ms. Gross’s family.

  2. M. Hall says:

    “The hospital’s top priority is the safety of its employees and patients,” spokeswoman Deborah Moore wrote in an e-mail to The Chronicle. “Recently, the hospital has implemented safety measures such as rounds on grounds, community policing and work groups that address incidences as they arise to further reduce aggressive incidents.”

    Rounds on grounds was not developed as a safety measure at Napa State Hospital. It was developed to get individuals off grounds during group times and into their assigned groups. It was not suppose to be a policing measure. Now that a murder has occured, the hospital is trying to pass this off as a safety measure, what a lie! Rounds on grounds is done by shift leads and supervisors who are nursing personel, not police. What a shame that management is trying to frame this measure to increase attendance in groups to a police activity just to save their butts! Rounds on grounds puts nursing staff in danger as they are not armed, alarmed or protected by the hospital police as they try to convince the individuals to go to groups. Rounds on grounds is just another failed attempt to make it look as if the hospital is delivering the care needed to restore these individuals to sanity. It’s not working and it won’t work til the hospital is a safe place for all who work and live there. Many of our individuals won’t go to groups held off the unit because they don’t feel safe. Sending individuals off the unit deprives nursing staff, psychologist, psychiatists the opportunity to engage directly with the individuals assigned to their care. Their progress is in essence a report card of attendence & participation.