Washington DC

St. Elizabeths Patient Received Threats Before He Was Killed, Daughter Says

Another patient is accused of strangling him

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A patient at Saint Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast D.C. who was killed Wednesday had previously received death threats from the patient suspected of strangling him, the victim's daughter told News4.

"My daddy's the strongest person I know," Crystal Davis said.

Davis said she had just spoken to her father, 68-year-old David Dowdell, over the phone hours before he was killed, and she could hear someone threatening him.

"You could hear a person in the background saying, 'I'm gonna kill you, mother f**ker,'" she said.

She said she then heard staff at the hospital take the person away and she told her father to go back to his room to be safe.

"'Go to bed and I love you. Sweet dreams and call me in the morning.' I never got that call. I woke up at 3 in the morning and that’s when he died," she said.

Staff found Dowdell strangled to death about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to police and officials at St Elizabeth's. They said 28-year-old Charles Lee was in the room.

Davis said Dowdell was a patient at the hospital since last year and his doctor and case worker had both told her in recent days that another patient had threatened to kill him.

"The doctor reached out to me and said, 'well, he’s been getting death threats,'" she said. "They said he was getting death threats and they were in fear of his life."

According to court records, Lee was arrested in 2021 after he stabbed a man in the head outside of Union Station in D.C.

Two weeks before Dowdell's killing, Lee was found competent to stand trial in the 2021 murder, but was still being held at the hospital.

Lee was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

When News4 questioned the Department of Behavioral Health about how a patient charged with a violent crime could have had access to another patient in a secure facility, the agency gave the following response:

"As a psychiatric hospital, Saint Elizabeths must comply with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services regulations and DC Health licensing regulations that govern a therapeutic environment that supports treatment and recovery."

Officials with St. Elizabeths would not comment on whether doctors knew about any death threats against Dowdell.

Davis, who lives in Mississippi, said she's trying to raise money to come to D.C. and retrieve her father's remains

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