By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The death at Oahu Community Correctional Center of a 25-year-old man who was acquitted of the rape and murder of a 6-year-old girl in Puna more than a decade ago has corrections officials taking a closer look at procedures regarding inmates with mental health issues.
Mark Davis Jr. was found dead in his cell Tuesday at about 4:35 p.m. Officials say Davis, who was segregated from the general population, was alone when he died.
“He was lying in his bed as if he was asleep, and when they discovered him there, he was already dead, and there was nothing around that makes us think it was foul play or suicide, but of course, we have to wait for the medical examiner to tell us exactly what the cause of death is,” Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said Thursday.
An autopsy was performed on Wednesday, but Schwartz said DPS “won’t have a definitive answer for probably another week or two” on why Davis died.
Davis admitted to raping and killing Kau‘ilani Tadeo in an abandoned Hawaiian Beaches home on Sept. 27, 2001, when he was 14. The girl died from a blow to the head. Davis was acquitted by reason of insanity in 2005 and committed to the Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe, Oahu. He had been diagnosed with mild to moderate mental retardation, intermittent explosive disorder and antisocial personality disorder.
Davis escaped from the mental hospital in 2005 after getting angry with a nurse and was found hours later in a canal in front of Temple Valley Shopping Center in Honolulu. He had a history of attacking staff and patients at the facility, according to court documents, and was transferred to a California facility in June 2006. He was returned to Hawaii a month later after California officials said he had committed numerous assaults there and almost escaped from the facility by trying to hot-wire a car in its parking lot.
On May 29, 2009, Davis allegedly assaulted a 62-year-old female occupational therapist at the state hospital by striking her in the head repeatedly with a padlock. He was charged with second-degree assault in 2011 after the state passed a law making an assault on a mental health worker by a patient a felony. He was found unfit to proceed to trial last August. An Oahu judge ordered another round of examinations to determine Davis’ fitness last month.
“I don’t know if there’s a written hospital policy, but over the last couple of years, as the frequency of assaults by patients on staff increased, there’s been more of an emphasis on new charges being filed for assaults by patients against staff members,” said Frederic Manke, a Department of Health psychologist who works with the Hilo courts.
Davis’ death is the third of an inmate at Oahu facilities in the past month. Darius Puni-Mau died April 8 at Halawa Correctional Facility and Ikaika Andrade died April 29 at OCCC. Both deaths have been ruled suicides.
“We’re looking into all the recent occurrences over in the holding unit,” Schwartz said. “… I know that (DPS Director) Ted (Sakai) has said that we’re going to be checking more into inmates who have mental illness history at OCCC. In this case, we don’t even know what he passed away from. It could be natural causes; it may be nothing. And we do have a large number of inmates who have medical problems, including long-term illnesses.”
In an email to state Sen. Will Espero, Sakai wrote: “I am emphasizing to our staff that we have a crisis on our hands,” the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. Sakai reportedly wrote in the email that OCCC operations and health care staff met Wednesday to review policies and programs for mentally ill inmates.
“I would be surprised if the jail and the hospital would be on the same level in terms of treating mental illness,” Manke said. “My belief is that the jail has more ability to manage aggressive behavior by people like Mark. I don’t have an empirical basis for saying this, but I think the most important variable affecting assaults on staff in both settings, prison and psychiatric hospital, is probably the census. The more crowded both of those facilities get against their designs, the more unfavorable ratio you have of patients to staff. So the logistics of managing an aggressive, acutely ill population, gets more difficult.”
The slain girl’s parents, George and Tumata Tadeo, said Thursday that they don’t find any comfort or closure in Davis’ death.
“We are Christians and we don’t wish that upon anybody,” said Tumata Tadeo, a homemaker raising the couple’s five sons, ages 7 to 17. “It’s been difficult; it’s been hard. It’s been 11 years. But we’re just going forward, you know. Every day we think about her and talk about her.”
Kau‘ilani Tadeo was a first-grader at Keonepoko Elementary School when she was killed. Had she lived, she would be 18 and graduating from high school this month.
“She was all the teachers’ favorite. I remember that,” her mother said.
Added George Tadeo: “Nothing can bring our daughter home. It’s an unfortunate situation that she died. I just miss having her in the house. She was my daughter. I just loved her so much. Her smile, her laughter, everything. She was a smart girl, very helpful.”
The Tadeo family was awarded a $2.7 million court judgment in 2007 against Davis and his parents, Mark Daniel Davis and Ellen Pearl Davis, but its unlikely they’ll collect. Davis’ parents moved away from the islands prior to the lawsuit.
George Tadeo said he believes Davis’ parents are responsible for their son’s actions.
“They neglected the boy, his parents. The parents didn’t take care of the boy. The parents weren’t there for him. That’s the part that I didn’t like,” he said.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.