Two years ago, on Oct. 23, 2010, Napa State Hospital psychiatric technician Donna Gross was slain on the hospital grounds by a patient.
Yesterday, on a cold, cloudy, windy evening, more than 50 people gathered at the hospital's front entrance to remember her death and honor her accomplishments.
Gross’s co-workers spoke of their good friend, remembering her “smile, always wanting to help, her warmth and her love and dedication to helping people.”
Her murder brought outcries from state hospital employees, their families, patients and the community to amend the antiquated hospital security system.
“It is critically important that we honor Donna’s memory and remember the contributions she gave to the hospital,” Napa State Executive Director Dolly Matteucci told the crowd Tuesday.
“We need a safe place for our staff and our patients. We have made strides, but have a long way to go,” Matteucci said.
State Assemblyman Michael Allen agreed.
“We want a safe environment for the hospital staff, their families, patients and the community,” Allen said. “Safety is our number one priority. We have made many improvements, but we are nowhere near finished. We have to meet our goal.”
Carnations were passed out to the crowd and laid in front of a poster of a smiling Donna Gross.
The gathering also included a candlelight vigil.
NSH patient Jess Willard Massey was convicted of killing Gross for pocket change and a pack of gum. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison.
Tuesday’s memorial and candlelight vigil was arranged by Safety Now Coalition, which is made up of five state employee union organizations.
Safety Now Coalition spokeswoman Brady Oppenheim said new safety measures have been put in place, not only at NSH, but the state’s five other hospitals for the most violent offenders.
Changes include new personal alarm systems, which work both inside and outside the facility. When Gross was killed she returning to the ward after her break. The old alarm systems did not work outside, Oppenheim said.
“We have also improved lighting, trimmed hedges and trees and put a program in place of first responders for problems with staff or patients,” Oppenheim said.
For more about the Donna Gross murder and state hospital safety, please see:
- Report: Violence at Napa State is "a persistent problem"
- Hundreds Rally for Safer Conditions at Napa State
- Accused Napa State Hospital Killer Pleads Not Guilty
- Napa State Hospital Workers Say They Fear for Their Lives
- Video: Union Workers Protest at Napa State Hospital
- Dept. of Mental Health Fined $100K for Killing at Napa State
- State Hospital Safety Bill Headed for Legislative Hearing
- Patient Held to Answer for Napa State Killing
- Accused Napa State Killer Pleads Insanity
- Accused Napa State Killer Pleads No Contest
- Napa State Killer to Hear Sentence Today
- Napa State Murderer Sentenced: 25 to Life
- Napa State Hospital Unions Plan Memorial for Murdered Worker