After three previous courtroom appearances were continued at the last minute because of ongoing psychiatric treatment, the man accused of killing and decapitating his grandmother in a South of Market apartment last month is scheduled to be arraigned at bedside at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Friday afternoon.
Andrew Luke, 30, has been held without bail in the psychiatric ward of SFGH since his arrest on Sept. 26. on charges of murder and elder abuse.
“Right now they need to monitor him very closely,” said Mark Jacobs, a deputy public defender. “He’s on a regimen of medications to keep him stabilized.”
According to court documents, prosecutors allege that Luke reported on Sept. 24 that God had been speaking to him and he was possessed by a demon. Trying to get the demon out, he banged his head repeatedly against a wall. He was taken to SFGH where he received staples to the back of his head and sent home.
An internal hospital investigation into whether Luke should have been released has concluded, the San Francisco Examiner has learned. But citing medical privacy laws, a spokesperson for the hospital could not disclose the results of the investigation.
“I’m not able to say anything about what happened in this case with the patient’s treatment or the diagnostics that were done,” Brent Andrew, a hospital spokesperson, said last week. “We can’t comment on any patients in our psychiatric practice.”
Jacobs said he’s had a difficult time piecing together what happened during Luke’s emergency room visit.
“I don’t know if he saw a psychiatrist or not, and that’s kind of troubling,” he said. “It’s a little hard to tell from the (medical) record. I don’t see a report from a psychiatrist.”
Court documents state Luke’s delusions continued the next day after he was discharged and he again repeatedly banged his head in the bathroom at home.
When his grandmother, 83 year-old Chii-Chyu Horng, came to the door, Luke believed she was possession by a demon and was commanded by Jesus “to get rid of it.”
Prosecutors say he then stabbed her with two knives, beat her over the head with a rolling pin, and used a knife to sever her head. He then called 911 to report what he had done.
Family and friends of Luke were outraged after they learned of the emergency room visit and questioned SFGH’s decision to send him home with his grandmother.
“This was a tragedy that could have been avoided,” said Mina Raissi, the mother of one of Luke’s childhood friends, who has known him since kindergarten.
“In Andrew’s case, he was there, they could have held him for a psych evaluation. They could have medicated him. But they just stapled the back of his head and sent him home,” she said.
Without commenting specifically on Luke’s case, Andrew said that if a patient visiting the emergency room is expressing suicidal or homicidal intent, or is a danger to themselves or others, hospital procedures call for the attending emergency room physician to call a psychiatrist for a consult.
Andrew did not respond to questions about how many patient safety investigations are conducted each year or the exact date when Luke’s investigation was closed, but said investigations are conducted by safety experts and senior members of the hospital’s executive team.
Speaking about patient safety investigations in general, Andrew said there can be a range of possible conclusions.
“It could be the conclusion says everyone followed guidelines appropriately, but this bad outcome happened,” he said. “Or it could be something as serious as someone did something against policy that was harmful to a patient, and there might be severe professional consequences.”