Special Report: Investigating teen’s mysterious death


NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side investigates the mysterious death of a teenager at the Newport News Behavioral Health Center.

Raven Keffer, 17, was a ward of the state when she entered the facility in mid-June.  She had just been medically discharged from a rehab program in Arlington, and until arriving in Newport News, had been keeping in touch with her sister Haley and great aunt Theresa Duncan.

“It breaks my heart.  She talked about having all these plans,” Duncan said. “We didn’t find out (about her death) until WAVY TV got in touch.”

The family members say Raven was making progress in her recovery from heroin addiction. According to the family, Raven had serious medical issues when she entered the center, and had been repeatedly in the hospital in recent weeks.

Another patient who was with Raven told us Raven seemed extremely ill, that she complained to staff about pain in her chest, was repeatedly throwing up and even threw up blood.

Did Raven get the proper care at the Behavioral Health Center? Her death remains under investigation by Child Protective Services and Virginia Behavioral Health and Development Services, the state agency that regulates facilities such as this one.

“What happened was tragic and horrible that a young girl died,” said Dev Nair, Assistant Commissioner of Quality Management & Development for VBHDS. “What we don’t know yet are all the circumstances that led to that.”

The agency can’t comment on Raven’s specific investigation, but a typical inquiry involves getting medical information from the provider, making an onsite visit, reviewing video and activity logs, and interviewing staff and patients.

Paul Kirkham, CEO of the center, declined an on-camera interview, but said in a statement Raven died after she was transferred to a local hospital.

Kirkham’s statement mentioned that Raven has been the center’s only patient death, and the staff is cooperating fully with the investigation. 

Kirkham says staff can treat common ailments and address medical emergencies, but the center is not a medical-surgical hospital. He also gave his “deepest condolences” to Raven’s family.

10 On Your Side checked with VBHDS, and records from the past five years show no other deaths or major medical emergencies for patients.

Two 2013 incidents involved inadequate supervision — one when a nurse was sleeping on the job, another when six residents went AWOL because of inadequate staffing.

While the medical examiner works on exactly what caused Raven’s death, her relatives wonder when and how she can be laid to rest. She was cremated about 10 days after her death.

“We found out after they’d done it. We didn’t even know anything about it,” Haley Keffer said.

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