A homicide at Bridgewater State Hospital raises profound questions about care for the mentally ill

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As soon as Lisa Brown saw the ambulance pulling into the parking lot at Bridgewater State Hospital that May evening in 2009, she felt certain something terrible had happened to her son. A few minutes earlier, she’d been sitting with Joshua Messier in the visiting room at the state’s prison for the mentally ill, worrying that he was on the verge of another schizophrenic attack. Brown’s intuition proved tragically correct: A nurse had found Messier strapped hand and foot to a bed, his face turning blue and his pulse non-existent, while a half dozen guards with almost no mental health training stood by. The medical examiner called the death a homicide and found injuries all over his body consistent with a beating. Yet, almost five years later, no one at Bridgewater State Hospital has been punished and the district attorney quietly dropped the case, leaving Joshua Messier’s parents to look for answers.

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