Lindsey Poteet was at the end of her month-long drug rehabilitation program at New Life Lodge. However, tragic events unfolded and instead of being reunited with her young daughter, she instead lay brain dead and on life support in a hospital bed.
Things had looked much more positive when she initially agreed to treatment, but within a few weeks of being admitted she had become very ill with pneumonia. And her illness and subsequent death have raised many questions regarding her care and the level of in-patient service offered at the facility.
One particular question is why she wasn’t able to receive competent medical care when at the facility and instead had to be driven to hospital, where she died en route.
The Events Leading up to Death
It’s not clear how Lindsey took ill with pneumonia, but an investigation found that she wasn’t the only patient at the facility to fall ill, and that New Life Lodge had a reputation for being over crowded, with barely enough beds, and enough staff to look after patients adequately.
As she became ill, her family reported concern when speaking to her by phone that her breathing had become very labored and that she was coughing a lot.
On the day that her treatment was planned to end, she was almost too weak to stand and was hurried off to hospital. However, many questions remain about why the decisions that were taken, had been made.
Quality of Care
For one, she was not cared for adequately at the facility, and it was decided that she had to be driven to hospital. But instead of being driven to the nearest hospital around eight miles away, was instead taken to one over thirty miles away.
Plus the person driving her took her in a van belonging to the facility, rather than Lindsey being taken in an ambulance. And the driver was not medically trained. This situation came to a head during the journey when it was reported that Lindsey wasn’t breathing.
The driver called 911 urgently and was asked to check whether Lindsey was still breathing. The driver wasn’t sure how to check this, or how to look after Lindsey in such an emergency.
By the time Lindsey reached hospital, she was declared brain dead and put on life support. It was determined that she would never regain normal function and her mother had to make the decision to remove the life support.
The Autopsy Results
In Lindsey’s autopsy it was revealed that the cause of death was due to the toxic combination of anti-depressant and therapeutic drugs in her system.
Through the government, media, and legal investigations that followed, this was ruled an accidental death. However, these investigations did uncover other deaths that same year, and more deaths followed in the years after.
These deaths have resulted in multi-million dollar lawsuits by family members, and certain insurers ending patient referrals to the facility. The negative publicity has continued to surround the facility, although it still houses a very significant number of patients each year.
Los Angeles authorities said yesterday that no new evidence has been uncovered in the death of Natalie Wood that would point to foul play.
After several weeks of interviews and other investigative work, detectives have not uncovered any evidence the death was a homicide.
It had been ruled as an accident.
Chief detective William McSweeney told the Los Angeles Times cold cases like Natalie Wood’s are never really closed and that detectives are still looking at some aspects of the case.
“At this point, it is an accidental death. Nothing has been discovered to suggest changing that at this time,” William McSweeney said.
Los Angeles police said in November “substantial new evidence” led them to re-open their investigation into Natalie Wood’s death 30 years ago.
Los Angeles authorities said yesterday that no new evidence has been uncovered in the death of Natalie Wood that would point to foul play
Natalie Wood died sometime after the evening of November 28, 1981, when the 43-year-old actress was boating off Catalina Island with her husband Robert Wagner and actor Christopher Walken.
The evening before the drowning, Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken, who was her co-star in the film “Brainstorm”, had dinner at a restaurant on the island.
According to ship Captain Dennis Davern’s sworn statement to detectives, the trio returned to the yacht and had drinks and Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken got into an argument.
A furious Robert Wagner shouted: “Do you want to f*** my wife” at Christopher Walken as he smashed a bottle of wine in the moments before Natalie Wood fell overboard, Dennis Davern claimed.
The captain told the officers when he showed up on the open deck where Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner had been arguing, Dennis Davern said: “Wagner was present, and he stood near the far rear wall of the yacht.”
The day after Natalie Wood’s body was found off the coast of California, Dennis Davern said he was asked to go to Robert Wagner’s bedroom at his Beverly Hills home, where he met with a lawyer and was told to “Say nothing”.
The captain wrote: “Wagner informed me he would hire an attorney who would handle my statement about Natalie Wood’s disappearance and drowning, which he did before Natalie Wood’s funeral.
“I signed a statement the appointed attorney drafted, one completely void of the facts surrounding Natalie Wood’s disappearance.”
Dennis Davern continued: “Detective Duane Rasure accepted the statement that had been prepared for me – a statement claiming that I did not know details about Natalie Wood’s disappearance from the yacht.
“Although I did want to reveal what I knew, I obeyed what had been asked of me.”
Robert Wagner has always maintained Natalie Wood accidentally slipped and drowned as she drunkenly tried to tie up a dinghy against the boat. Police say he is not considered a suspect.
In his memoir, Pieces of My Heart, Robert Wagner explains how he had been on his boat, the Splendour, with Natalie Wood – who he had married twice – and Christopher Walken when an argument broke out.
Robert Wagner wrote: “Chris [Walken] began talking about his <<total pursuit of a career>>, which he admitted was more important to him than his personal life. He clearly thought Natalie should live like that, too.
“I got angry. <<Why don’t you stay out of her career?>> I said. <<She’s got enough people telling her what to do without you>>.”
As the argument escalated, Natalie Wood left for bed.
“The last time I saw my wife she was fixing her hair in the bathroom while I was arguing with Chris,” Robert Wagner said.
“I saw her shut the door. She was going to bed.”
Robert Wagner described how he and Christopher Walken moved up to the deck as “things were threatening to get physical” and they were calmed by the fresh sea air.
He said he waited up a little longer before going to bed – but his wife was not there.
When Robert Wagner was questioned by a rescue boat captain in 1981 about why he didn’t call for help to find his missing wife, he allegedly said: “We thought she was off on another boat screwing around because that’s the kind of woman she is.”
Describing his sense of guilt, Robert Wagner continued in his book: “Yes, I blamed myself. If I’d been there, I could have done something. I wasn’t, but ultimately, a man is responsible for his loved one.
“I would have done anything in the world to protect her. Anything. I lost a woman I loved with all my heart and I will never completely come to terms with that.”
Lifeguard captain Roger Smith told the Times in November that Natalie Wood could have been saved if officials had been called sooner to search for her.
Roger Smith said he was alerted that Natalie Wood was missing at 5:11a.m. the next day.
Based on the condition of her body when Natalie Wood was pulled from the water, Roger Smith said he believes she survived for some time in the water and was washed out to sea.