Police confirm death at behavioral health facility already under investigation

Police are now looking into that death as they investigate dozens of other potential crimes at the facility.

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Police confirmed to Channel 2 Action News that they are investigating a death at a Gwinnett County behavioral health facility that is already under investigation.

Channel 2 Gwinnett County Bureau Chief Tony Thomas last week first reported that police are investigating a total of 46 claims of patient abuse and neglect at Lakeview Behavioral Health in Norcross.

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Thomas learned that authorities were called to the facility early Friday morning after workers reported having trouble with a 55-year-old patient.

It's unclear what happened in the following three minutes, but the patient died.

Police are now looking into that death as they investigate dozens of other potential crimes at the facility.

"We don't know at what level this death investigation plays into the larger criminal investigation," said Cpl. Michele Pihera, with the Gwinnett County Police Department.

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Investigators told Thomas that a medical examiner's report found nothing specifically criminal in the death, but detectives are waiting on toxicology reports, which could take weeks to complete, before they determine any links.

"Once we get a little more information from the medical examiner's officer, we will be able to figure out where this investigation is going," Pihera said.

In the past few weeks, dozens of former patients and their families have filed complaints with Gwinnett County police ranging from abuse to over-drugging to financial crimes.

Before news of the death became public, Thomas spoke with the CEO of Lakeview Behavioral Health by phone. Jim Spriyt told Thomas neither he nor state and federal investigators had noticed any issues.

"If we discover anything, we are going to self-report. I have seen nothing but dignity and respect from our staff," Spriyt said.

Critics say they aren't giving up.

"I want Lakeview shut down," said Kerri Hitch, who lives near the facility. "It's very heartbreaking."

Thomas spoke to family members of the man who died. They told him they have hired their own civil attorney and would not make any public statements at this time about what happened at Lakeview.

Spriyt has not commented directly about the death, citing laws about talking about specific cases.