Veteran Died After VA Center, Jail Refused Him


November 20, 2007 – IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) A homeless Vietnam veteran whose body was found beneath an Iowa City bridge had been turned away just days before from a Veterans Affairs center and the county jail.

The nearly naked body of Sonny Iovino, 55, was found Nov. 7 under a bridge, and an autopsy showed he died of hypothermia. His body was found two days after Iovino had repeated run-ins with police.

According to University of Iowa police reports obtained by The Gazette, campus police found Iovino lying on the ground on the morning of Nov. 5. He wasn’t wearing shoes and seemed confused as he talked and dug in mulch, the reports said.

Officers got Iovino to put on shoes, then cited him for trespassing and told him to leave. Later in the morning, officers responded to another call and found Iovino wearing only pants. They persuaded him to dress and leave.

After dealing with Iovino less than two hours later, officers took him to a psychiatrist at the VA center. Iovino asked for medication but wouldn’t consent to an evaluation and was released back to police.

After a shelter declined to take him, reports show officers arrested Iovino and took him to jail, where deputies also refused to admit him because of rules regarding people with medical needs.

Officers cited Iovino for criminal trespass, then released him pending a Nov. 20 court date. He signed the charge and walked off toward the bridge where his body was later found.

Advocates for mentally ill people said it’s hard to help when people refuse treatment.

“If they don’t want to go and if they aren’t committed there’s nothing anyone can do,” said Gene Spaziani, former chairman of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Johnson County. “They’re on their own. That’s the way it goes.”

Information from: The Gazette,

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