Crime

Man hit with mug at adult family home dies. Lakewood leaders angry with state

A Lakewood man hit in the face with a coffee mug last week at a senior living facility has died.

Timothy Alan Nitschke, 57, was a resident at a small adult family home in the 7900 block of Onyx Court Southwest. Another resident, John Douglas Quitorio, 54, is accused of hitting Nitschke.

Pierce County prosecutors charged Quitorio with second-degree assault on Tuesday and a competency hearing was set for Monday. On Thursday, prosecutors said they were reviewing the charges since Nitschke died.

According to police, the two men were sitting at a dining room table Saturday night when they started arguing over a beverage. Quitorio picked up a coffee mug and punched Nitschke in the eye, police said. Nitschke, who had a pre-exisiting brain condition, was knocked unconscious.

He was taken to Madigan Army Medical Center, where he underwent surgery for bleeding in his brain. He died Wednesday.

Public records and information obtained by The News Tribune indicate Quitorio was committed to Western State Hospital three times between 2005 and 2016. Including the alleged assault on Nitschske, Lakewood police have responded to four incidents involving Quitorio between 2013 and 2018.

The latest incident reignites a long-running political and legal battle between the state and Lakewood leaders. The city contends the state Department of Social and Health Services has been funneling Western State patients with violent histories into adult family homes that lack sufficient safeguards.

A Wednesday note from City Manager John Caulfield to City Council members underlined the city’s concerns in light of the fatal assault on Nitschke.

“We are in the process of drafting a letter to DSHS Secretary (with cc’s to City Council, Governor and State delegation) outlining what has occurred and expressing our concern for lack of proper security by one person against another given these businesses are supposed to helping and caring for our most vulnerable,” Caulfield wrote.

State Sen. Steve O’Ban (R-Lakewood), alerted to the situation, issued a statement Wednesday calling for a moratorium on local placements of such patients.

“This violent tragedy was entirely predictable,” O’Ban said. “DSHS should have heeded our calls to end placing individuals with violent histories in adult family homes, which were never intended for such individuals and lack security and basic protections for other residents of the facility and their neighbors. DSHS should have been establishing appropriate, secure facilities for violent individuals released from its care.”

O’Ban also sent a letter to DSHS Secretary Cheryl Strange, requesting an investigation into Quitorio’s history of violence at the state hospital and the decision that led to his release and placement in an adult family home.

The letter criticizes the state’s “misguided policy” and “lack of transparency” regarding such placements.

“I am concerned about (DSHS’s) failure to share vital information about such individuals with local law enforcement, adult family home residents and their families, and nearby neighbors,” O’Ban wrote.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell
Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486 @seanrobinsonTNT
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