Veteran Who Allegedly Strangled Fellow Patient at Florida VA Hospital Charged with Murder

A gavel rests on the judge’s bench in the courtroom of the 39th Air Base Wing legal office at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.
A gavel rests on the judge’s bench in the courtroom of the 39th Air Base Wing legal office at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. (Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua/U.S. Air Force photo)

A patient at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center is facing murder charges after a fellow veteran was found strangled to death in a bathroom at the hospital's inpatient psychiatric unit, according to court documents.

Christopher Schweikart, 33, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder following the March 16 discovery of the body. The patient was later determined to have been strangled, according to the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office.

The victim, who has not been named, was described in court documents as being found with a Bible and handwritten inscription that said "God, I have lived a good life, take me home," a responding officer with the VA's Office of Inspector General said in an affidavit.

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But according to the officer, Special Agent Sara Medina with the VA inspector general's office, after investigators found a pen and a different Bible in Schweikart's possession that contained a note with similar handwriting, they decided to interview Schweikart. He allegedly confessed, saying the victim had startled him when he walked into the bathroom and he strangled him.

"I can't lie," Schweikart said, according to court documents.

According to the affidavit, Schweikart told a nurse that he "killed the guy" and put his hands around the victim's neck. "He wanted to die," Schweikart allegedly said.

Schweikart also told a nurse that he had killed the victim after startling him from behind and strangling him. According to court documents, Schweikart said he went back to his room after the murder and "laid on his bed."

Little is known about the victim, who has not been identified. According to the affidavit, Schweikart, who was his roommate, said the veteran was talking about Vietnam.

A judge ruled March 22 that Schweikart should remain confined while he awaits trial as he poses "a serious risk of flight or nonappearance and is a danger to the community."

An attempt to reach Schweikart's attorney was not successful.

In a statement provided to, VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes said the department is saddened by the death and is cooperating with the investigation.

"Our thoughts and condolences are with the veteran's loved ones," Hayes said in an email Monday. "We immediately notified the Office of Inspector General of this tragic incident and are fully cooperating with the investigation. Because this investigation is ongoing, we cannot comment further at this time -- and we refer all questions to the authorities leading the investigation."

The West Palm Beach VA Medical Center settled a $5.75 million lawsuit last year over the 2019 death of Brieux Dash, a former Army sergeant who died by suicide at the facility. A subsequent investigation found that the staff had failed to monitor him properly despite previous suicide attempts and the cameras in his room had not been operational for three years.

His body was not found for more than two hours.

The facility also is the target of an ongoing wrongful death suit involving Rico Marles, a 29-year-old former Marine who died by suicide at home after seeking help twice at the emergency department.

The suit alleges that the hospital did not meet standards of care for a person experiencing a mental health crisis.

Related: Former VA Hospital Employee Pleads Guilty to Murders of Seven Veterans

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