A System Gone Mad

Two agencies were supposed to be taking care of Donald Ellison. Instead, they were missing in action--and the mentally ill Vietnam veteran was left to die on the street.

Moreover, someone--AVSC's Warner or ComCare's DeGroot--lied about ComCare's supposed July 25 and July 27 "through the door" contacts with Donald. Donald had collapsed before either contact could have occurred.

Warner was responsible for more than 75 veterans at the time, in the Valley and northern Arizona. It's understandable, if not excusable, that he dropped the ball in Donald's case.

What's intolerable, says Mary Howard, is that Warner tried to cover up his mishandling of the case.

"Gary was trying to put stuff on ComCare and he bit himself hard in the butt," Howard says of the dubious case notes. "ComCare has its own problems. They lied about when they saw Donald, when he was already dead. None of these people should be let off the hook."

Warner referred questions from New Times to AVSC director Norm Gallion, but not before he tried to explain his official notes:

"I'm sure you've seen where people type things on computers and you can print them up on one page. Those are a couple of lines summarizing things that have happened. Obviously, you need to have a lot of gaps filled in here--but not from me."

Not from Norm Gallion, either. Gallion spoke briefly to New Times this Monday, and promised to supply answers to a written list of questions. But he didn't respond to calls after the first interview.

Other questions persist:
How did Donald get from his new apartment in north central Phoenix to a street near the Salt River, a distance of some eight miles? And who drank the "bottle of gin" Liz Robertson referred to in her notes? Blood tests at Phoenix Memorial and Donald's autopsy revealed he hadn't been drinking.

Ultimately, says Mary Howard, none of that matters much. What does matter to her is what she told the emergency-room doctor who treated her brother.

"He told me he'd thought Donald was a transient, a bum," she says. "I said Donald was a Vietnam vet who fought for his country and had gotten sick doing so. The doctor apologized. 'I'm sorry. I didn't know that.


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