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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago today in Spokane: Investigation clears state school in death of boy in bed restraints

From the Oct. 22, 1919 Spokane Daily Chronicle (S-R archives)
From the Oct. 22, 1919 Spokane Daily Chronicle (S-R archives)

An investigation cleared the State Custodial School at Medical Lake from blame in the death of Charles Alexander, a boy who died while under restraints in a bed.

He did not die from abuse or beatings from attendants, as some had claimed. He died from natural causes, specifically “general peritonitis,” said the report.

The report said that Alexander was in the institution because he suffered from “fits and convulsions,” some of them violent. He had made several attempts to escape. In fact, the night before his death, he had cut his “wristlets” and escaped by lowering himself out a window with a bed sheet. He tried to hitch a ride to the town of Medical Lake, but was soon apprehended and brought back.

He appeared to be in “his usual condition” the next day, except for a few scratches he acquired during his escape. The next night, he was placed in a bed under restraints “to prevent his escaping and for other reasons unnecessary to mention.”

He asked for, and received, a glass of water at 5 a.m. Shortly after 6 a.m., an attendant checked on him again and found him dead.

Three physicians examined the body and found no abrasions or bruises or any indication of abuse. Instead, they found clear evidence of general peritonitis, a serious abdominal inflammation usually caused by infection.

The report concluded that the boy had “received nothing but the kindest treatment from those connected with the custodial school.”

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