Sunday, May 19

Veteran accused of strangling roommate at VA Medical Center

A 33-year-old man is a suspect in the killing of his roommate in the Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s acute mental health unit in Riviera Beach, leaving a Bible on the floor with a handwritten note: “God, I have lived a good life. Take me home.”

Christopher Schweikart made an appearance Tuesday in federal court in West Palm Beach and is facing a charge of first-degree premeditated murder of an unidentified man.

The patient was found deceased early Saturday.

Two agents with the VA arrived at the hospital at 5:21 a.m., about an hour after receiving a call about the death.

“I just want to die. I want to die so bad,” a nurse said Schweikart told her after his roommate’s body was discovered. “I killed the guy. I put my hands around his neck. He wanted to die.”

Federal VA agents found a black pen and the same print handwriting in a Bible on the bedside table of the patient’s roommate.

The entire psychiatric floor is locked.

They interviewed Schweikart in the cafeteria for about five minutes.

When told the interview was voluntary, Schweikart “replied with something to the effect of ‘I can’t lie,'” according to a report from an agent.

He told investigators he followed the roommate into their shared bathroom and strangled him with both hands.

Later in the evening, he told investigators he tried to adjust the victim on the toilet so it would not look so obvious. He said he went back into the room and lay in his bed.

A medical examiner said the victim’s injuries were consistent with strangulation, according to an autopsy.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of a veteran at our facility on March 16 our thoughts and condolences are with the veteran’s loved ones,” VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes said in a statement. “We immediately notified the Office of Inspector General of this tragic incident and are fully cooperating with the investigation. Because this investigation is ongoing, we cannot comment further at this time and we refer all questions to the authorities leading the investigation.”

Schweikart was denied bail.

In 2019, Sgt. Brieux Dash, 33, hanged himself in his room at the VA, three days after he was admitted. He served two tours of duty in Iraq and returned home with PTSD. Family members reached a $5.75 million settlement with the VA four years later.

A federal investigation faulted the VA Medical Center for a lax attitude toward ensuring patient safety, according to a report from the same year.

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