CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Hurricane man at the center of a bizarre incident at Thomas Memorial Hospital on Monday has a record of strange behavior and "habitual drug abuse," according to documents filed with the state Board of Veterinary Medicine.
South Charleston police say the details surrounding the arrest of Stephen Mahnken, 47, who allegedly impersonated a physician's assistant and went into patients' rooms as they slept, are so unusual there aren't even state laws that adequately address the offense.
Police allege Mahnken, a former veterinarian at Best Friends Animal Hospital in Winfield, impersonated hospital staff and gained entry to a patient's room.
The patient awoke to find bandaged stuffed animals lying about the room, as well as notes on castration and animal X-rays, South Charleston Assistant Police Chief Robert Houck said.
The patient also discovered someone had placed cotton balls on his thighs and crotch area, according to a criminal complaint.
"There was a monkey hanging over the bed, and a teddy bear in a chair. They had medical gauze wrapped all around them," Houck said. "From what we understand, he just had a small backpack when he arrived at the hospital, so we believe that those stuffed animals came out of other patients' rooms."
Authorities apprehended Mahnken as he left room 5015 in the medical pavilion. He was allegedly wearing a white lab coat, stethoscope and backpack at the time, police said. He also was carrying a clipboard with animal X-rays on it.
Mahnken told officers first that he was a physician's assistant, according to the complaint. He later stated that he is a veterinarian.
Police have charged Mahnken with trespassing, larceny, battery and obstructing an officer -- all misdemeanor charges.
Houck said there are no state laws that address the nature of several of Mahnken's actions.
"There really isn't anything on impersonating a doctor," he said. "There just wasn't anything in our state code that was real aggressive that we could charge him with."
They also believe the clipboard was stolen from somewhere inside the hospital, Houck said.
Houck said Mahnken and the patient were acquainted and that Mahnken told officers he was trying to play a prank.
"But the guy in the room in no way took this as a joke," Houck said. "He said he would never have expected this kind of strange behavior."
In the criminal complaint, Kanawha Magistrate Julie Yeager wrote, "Do not go anywhere near Thomas Memorial Hospital."
The telephone listing for Mahnken's home was disconnected as of Tuesday afternoon.
But this isn't the first time that the former veterinarian has found himself in trouble.
Mahnken's veterinary license was suspended in 2001, when the state Board of Veterinary Medicine found he had committed a litany of violations. The board considered him at the time to be guilty of "unprofessional conduct, malpractice and gross negligence."
He was accused at the time of abusing drugs while performing procedures on animals, "deliberate cruelty to animals," and "failure to exercise a reasonable degree of care in the handling and disposition of controlled substances, namely Ketamine and Valium," documents show.
He also was charged with failing to exercise care and skill following administration of anesthesia, which led to the death of a dog at Phillips Animal Hospital.
He was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation, submit to weekly drug tests and perform 100 hours of community service. He also was required to practice veterinary medicine under the direct supervision of another licensed veterinarian for six months.
Mahnken apparently satisfied those terms and was reinstated in 2002 under a "modified consent agreement" with the board.
But in 2009, Mahnken found himself in front of the board again. This time, the board revoked his license for good.
A board-appointed hearing examiner found at the time that Mahnken had used drugs repeatedly, including horse tranquilizers, hypnotic agent Propofol and even euthanasia drugs.
Witnesses accused him of supplying employees of the clinic with drugs like marijuana, Lortab, Hydrocodone, Oxycontin and other pain pills, according to the order.
The drug use often left Mahnken unable to complete surgeries. Some procedures were delayed because of his drug use, including emergency procedures.
Patients waited for "hours and sometimes days" for procedures, according to the order.
Employees also testified that they would not let Mahnken have access to the lockbox at the clinic because it contained Propofol. On several occasions, witnesses said they found him in the bathroom, seemingly intoxicated, with drugs, catheters and syringes scattered around.
One witness testified during the hearing that Mahnken once took a euthanasia solution "just to see what would happen to him."
He also had previously surrendered his Drug Enforcement Administration license to DEA agents in April 2004 when agents raided the clinic.
Veterinary Board Executive Director Wanda Goodwin said that it took more than four years for the hearing to take place because Mahnken had filed a number of requests to delay the proceedings. The hearing itself was a long one, she said.
"The hearing lasted for eight days," she said "That is an unusually long hearing."
His license was revoked and he was fined $10,000 and ordered to pay the board more than $50,000 for administrative costs and legal fees. He must pay the fees if he ever reapplies for a veterinary license, Goodwin said.
He has never applied for a new license, she said.
Goodwin said she is not aware of any criminal charges resulting from the drug use or animal abuse.
Mahnken was released on $200 bond Monday. He is awaiting a preliminary hearing for the incident before Kanawha Magistrate Kim Aaron.
Thomas Memorial Hospital officials released a statement about the "isolated incident," and said security and surveillance capabilities are in place and the nursing staff is educated in following security protocols when necessary.
by Billy Wolfe
Daily Mail staff
Wednesday January 26, 2011
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