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Indybay Feature

Is There Equal Justice Under the Law?

by Mike Rhodes (MikeRhodes [at] Comcast.net)
This is the first report I have written on the death of my friend, Pamela Kincaid, since August 18, 2007. I thought it was time to bring everyone up to date. The photo below is Paul, Kayla, and Pam in 2000.
600_paul_kayla_and_pam.jpg
Is There Equal Justice Under the Law?
By Mike Rhodes

There were a lot of things about Pamela Kincaid’s life that I didn’t know about when she died last summer. Pam was a friend of mine, she was homeless, and she was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against the City of Fresno. The lawsuit was filed to stop the city from bulldozing homeless encampments - in part, because of her courage and willingness to stand up for justice, a preliminary injunction was issued to protect homeless peoples property. Some people think that it was her high profile in this case that led to her death.

Pam’s boyfriend at the time, who we will call Mario, told me that she was beaten by drug dealers who were directed by the police to attack Pam. Mario said he witnessed the beating and described it in painful detail. He swears he will have revenge on those who attacked Pam.

Since writing an earlier article about this incident (see: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/08/18/18441458.php ) I have been told that Mario himself beat Pam and he told his story about the police connection and the drug dealers to direct attention away from himself. People who believe Mario was involved in the beating incident cite his history of violence towards Pam as evidence that he was capable of the crime. Pam told her friends that Mario hit her and she left him, more than once, because of the violence.

After the memorial service held for Pam at Courthouse Park in downtown Fresno (see: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/08/27/18444050.php ) I was approached by an older homeless man. He said “I want to talk with you because I know who beat Pam.” In a whisper he said that there was a witness to the incident and his friend, Mike Conner, had seen Mario beat Pam. I said “I want to talk to this guy,” but was told that Conner had disappeared shortly after Pam ended up in the hospital. As far as I know, Conner has not been seen in Fresno again.

If the Fresno Police Department had done there job, after they interviewed Pam in the Community Medical Regional Center (CRMC) emergency room, we might have found out who was responsible for the brutal and vicious attack that nearly killed her. Instead, the FPD officers investigating the crime wrote the following report:

I contacted Kincaid, the poss vict. She was being treated. Unknown persons dropped her off. She had numerous abrasions on her body and face. Her face and head was purple. One doctor thought she had severe sunburn as the skin was peeling uniformly on her face.

We asked her what happened and she said the people at a hospital did this. She said she was not beat up. The injuries looked approx 3 to 5 days old. When asked how she got them she got mad and told me she had already told me. They did this to her at a hospital. The nurse said that’s what she told them also. She talked as if she was mentally ill but I could find no priors.

The FPD never carried out an investigation to determine why Pam ended up in the emergency room at CRMC. Doctors at the hospital later determined she had Subdural hematoma, which means there was bleeding in her skull which was putting pressure on her brain, causing disorientation. The Subdural hematoma accounts for Pam’s behavior when she was talking to the police, but it does not explain why the responding officers did not take her condition more seriously. Is it possible that they did not investigate the crime because she was a homeless woman? Would they have paid more attention if mayor Alan Autry had been beaten and was in the emergency room?

Pam was so disoriented from the beating that she did not know what city she was in or what year it was. She told the nurses at CRMC a vivid story about how she and her daughter had been raped and beaten. Pam said her daughter had been killed and she was left for dead.

In the spring of last year Pam was told that her only daughter, Kayla was dead. Pam was distraught, depressed and inconsolable when she learned about the death of her daughter. The torment she experienced manifested itself into the delusion of the rape and beating she told to the nurses who oversaw Pam’s care. Fortunately for Kayla, but sadly for Pam, Kayla was not dead, she was living in Coalinga all the time.

Kayla contacted me through her best friend’s mother after she learned, through news reports, about the death of her mother. Kayla wanted to know about her mother’s life in Fresno and was interested to learn the truth about Pam’s death. I asked Pam’s friends why she thought her daughter was dead. The story they told me was that someone had come to the homeless encampments in downtown Fresno looking for Pam. When they could not find her, they left word with one of Pam’s friends that Kayla had died. The friend told Pam the sad news. Who would lie about something like this and why?

Kayla and Pam were very close and loved each other very much. Before becoming homeless, Pam and Kayla lived in Coalinga where Pam worked for the local school district as a cook. She had moved to Coalinga to be near Paul Kincaid, who was in Avenal State Prison. Kayla is Paul’s brother Michael’s child. Pam visited Paul every week and eventually they got married.

I visited Paul in Avenal and was impressed. First of all, I was impressed by how god-forsaken the prison at Avenal is. The road leading to Avenal is like a moonscape and once you get to the prison you are confronted with razor wire, sally gates, flies everywhere, and the smell of chicken shit from their poultry farm. Hardly the country club some right wing ideologues say prison has become. Paul has been in prison for 26 years on a sentence of life with the possibility of parole. He said I was the first visitor he has had in years.

Paul said Pam was the best thing that had happened to him and he wanted to know what happened to her. We talked all afternoon and at the end Paul said he would do anything he could to get to the truth.

The truth is not going to be easy to find, in part because none of the government agencies involved are asking the hard questions and vigorously investigating what happened. The FPD gave up before they started. Detective Mark Eaton of the Fresno County Sheriff’s department says that the investigation into Pam’s death is continuing, but “preliminarily it looks like an accident.” Pam fell from the 4th floor balcony at University Medical Center (UMC) where she had been transferred, after leaving CRMC.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) also investigated Pam’s death. There conclusion, in an October 29, 2007 letter to CRMC stated that “after completing direct observations, interviews, and/or review of documents, it was determined that violation of regulations could not be substantiated.” The CDPH could find no fault with the hospitals procedures.

A letter from Marjory Beekman, director of Med/Surg at CRMC, sent to CDPH immediately after Pam’s death said that she “fell from the 4th floor balcony to the ground below. Staff heard the alarm on the door to the balcony go off and immediately investigated and found no one there. They looked below and saw no one. They did a bed check and found Pam Kincaid missing. They looked on the ground floor and found her. The staff called 911 and she was admitted to CRMC ICU.”

On August 1, the day Pam died, I got a call from the attending physician at CRMC who said Pam had landed on her head. He was asking me, since I was who Pam designated to make medical decisions for her, if they could disconnect her from life support. Since I was out of the country at the time, I asked Kelly Borkert, a friend of mine who works with Food Not Bombs, if he could go down to UMC and try to find out what happened. He went with Al Williams, a homeless man from the Roeding Park Area, and when they arrived they found a repair person working on the door alarm. Why was there a repair person working on the door alarm at 8 AM in the morning (Pam had fallen at about 1:30 AM)? The alarm is supposed to alert staff if anyone opens the door to the balcony.

Cynthia Manuszak, a local artist and photographer had tried to call Pam during the 2 days she was at UMC. Manuszak was told, several times, that Pam was not available because she was on the balcony smoking. Pam did not like to be confined and sometimes felt claustrophobic. One worker on the 4th floor said that when the staff went onto the balcony the night Pam died, they found a pillow. This worker speculated that other staff members might have let Pam sleep on the balcony.

If you go to the 4th floor balcony at UMC, you will see that it is part of a fire escape and that if Pam had wanted to leave the building, she could have just walked down the stairs. There was nothing to stop her from leaving if she wanted to go (except the alarm on the door and the alert staff). Why then would she have gone out the door and over or under the fence on the balcony, instead of walking down the stairs? Could she have rolled under the protective fence in her sleep? Is it possible that someone pushed her over the side? Perhaps the person who beat her up wanted to keep her from talking. Maybe she was so distraught over the death of her daughter that she committed suicide. Without an investigation it will be hard to know for sure. Perhaps a look at the video surveillance tapes would revel something. As far as I know, nobody has looked at the video.

Five months after Pam’s death, the Coroner’s office still has not released the report on her death. I have paid for a copy of the report but have been given no indication of when it will be complete. Maybe the length of the sheriff’s department investigation and the missing Coroner’s report means that there is more going on here than we know about. On the other hand, it could just be that the death of another homeless women is a low priority and the investigation has ended up on the bottom of the work pile for too long.

How could a seriously disoriented person, who is under medical care, be allowed to get to a 4th floor balcony where she could fall to her death? Didn’t the staff, whose care she was under, have an obligation to keep her from hurting herself? If this had happened to mayor Autry, the powers that be in this community would be howling to high heaven. Justice would be demanded and those responsible for his death would be held accountable. Pam Kincaid deserves nothing less.

###
§Inside on the 4th floor
by Mike Rhodes
600_doorrepaircart.jpg
This is inside the building on the 4th floor at UMC. The photo was taken the morning Pam died. Note the repair cart in front of the door.
§On the Balcony
by Mike Rhodes
600_balcony.jpg
This is the balcony on the 4th floor at UMC. It is not likely someone would “accidentally” fall off the balcony.
§Looking Down
by Mike Rhodes
600_viewdown.jpg
This is the view looking down from the 4th floor balcony.
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expat wannabe
Thu, Jan 3, 2008 7:24PM
Mike Rhodes
Thu, Jan 3, 2008 10:53AM
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