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Family of Mental Health Patient Found Dead in Woods Files Lawsuit

The man’s sisters are suing several parties after he wandered away from an appointment and was found dead three months later.

Family of Mental Health Patient Found Dead in Woods Files Lawsuit

Jack Walsh's family says he suffered from dementia and schizophrenia and had been a ward of the state since 2010.

The family of a Derry, N.H., man who walked away from a medical appointment and was found dead three months later has filed a lawsuit.

Jack Walsh’s three sisters filed a lawsuit in Rockingham County Superior Court against Pleasant Valley Nursing Center, Action Ambulance and Parkland Medical Center, after their 63-year-old brother wandered off from an appointment. Walsh suffered from dementia and schizophrenia and had been a ward of the state since 2010. His body was discovered three months later.

Walsh, who was a resident of Pleasant Valley Nursing Center in Derry, N.H., was transported to Parkland Medical Center on December 13, 2016, for a scheduled medical appointment, according to the Eagle Tribune.

Police conducted a line search close to the area where Walsh’s body was found using K-9 officers but weren’t able to pick up Walsh’s scent.

Walsh’s body was discovered in a swampy brook on March 10, less than a mile from the Parkland Medical Center, by an off-duty Derry policy officer who was hiking in the woods. Police say Walsh appeared to have hit his head and was found face down and partially submerged.

The lawsuit alleges the medical center and Parkland employees did not notify authorities of Walsh’s disappearance quick enough.

Walsh’s sisters say they were out to lunch with him when a Pleasant Valley employee called to tell them Jack had a doctor’s appointment because he was having difficulty swallowing, according to the Union Leader.

An employee with Action Ambulance transported Walsh from Pleasant Valley to Parkland. He was dropped off at 1:04 p.m. for his 1:30 p.m. appointment. Walsh was then told to sit in the waiting area and to call the ambulance service to pick him up when he was done.

The lawsuit says Walsh’s guardian did not give consent for the medical appointment and that he did not have a cell phone, stating he was “not known to make phone calls”.

Staff at Parkland called Walsh’s name but did not look for him or call Pleasant Valley when he did not respond.

It wasn’t until 6:30 p.m. that Pleasant Valley called his family to ask if he was still with his sisters because he had not returned for dinner curfew.

Ryan Lawrence, director of marketing and public relations at Parkland, says staff contacted authorities as soon as they became aware of the situation.

“Jack’s death should never have happened,” says Joanne Simpson, one of Jack’s sister. “We hope this tragedy, although it hurt our family very much, will in some way benefit the public by not allowing this type of carelessness to happen again.”

About the Author


Amy Rock is Campus Safety's senior editor. She graduated from UMass Amherst with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and a minor in Education.

She has worked in the publishing industry since 2011, in both events and digital marketing.

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