The Arrowhead Beach Road woman who was seriously injured in a domestic violence assault early Monday morning is still listed in guarded condition at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, and her accused assailant, Paul M. Khouzam is in Yates County Jail awaiting grand jury action on felony burglary and assault charges.
More details about the case which began to unfold Sunday night have come out, and officials at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital find themselves facing questions about policies for the evaluation and treatment of some people brought to the emergency department.
Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike says Khouzam had been taken to the emergency department by Deputies Sunday night at about 7:22 p.m. after receiving a call that Khouzam was threatening suicide. Spike says the Deputies who took Khouzam to the hospital Sunday night were following a protocol through New York State Mental Hygiene Law that mandates they take an individual to the nearest facility designated for mental health care.
But around 10 p.m., he was released from the hospital and returned to his Branchport home. Spike says law enforcement officials were not notified by the hospital that he had been released.
The next contact officers had with Khouzam was at 5:59 a.m. Monday morning, when Deputies encountered him walking on Arrowhead Beach Road. Inside a nearby house, a 67-year-old woman lay unconscious and bleeding from wounds to her upper body and head. Khouzam surrendered to Deputies without incident. Spike and Yates County District Attorney Todd Casella say the woman is a victim of domestic violence.
Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital spokesperson Loree MacKerchar released the following statement Tuesday morning:
“First and foremost, the Finger Lakes Health family is deeply saddened by this tragedy. We recognize the community’s interest in the situation, however, out of respect for those involved and not to hinder the investigation, our comments will be limited to this statement.
“Our commitment is to provide care to our patients and our community, recognizing that mental health issues are complicated. We have policies in place that determine processes for patients who present to our hospitals. We are cooperating fully with law enforcement in the investigation, informed by federal privacy laws.”
The statement concludes: “Finger Lakes Health is committed to supporting our community and the Finger Lakes Health family in response to this tragedy.”
Khouzam is known to law enforcement agencies in the region. He is currently serving a three-year probation sentence for a 2016 DWI conviction in Geneva, and he has multiple previous arrests and contacts with law enforcement in Yates, Schuyler, Ontario, and Wayne Counties, according to Spike and earlier reporting. Among those instances:
2006: Khouzam allegedly grabbed his estranged girlfriend by the throat, threw her over a couch and into a bookcase. He did so in front of a 6-month-old baby boy. Khouzam was charged with burglary in the 2nd degree, menacing in the 3rd degree and endangering the welfare of a child.
2014: Khouzam struck a Dresden resident, then punched a New York State Trooper who responded to the 911 call. The trooper used pepper spray on Khouzam, who was transported to Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital in Penn Yan for a mental health evaluation. The trooper was not injured. Khouzam was arraigned in Torrey Town Court and remanded to Yates County Jail.
2017: He was arrested in Ontario County and charged with operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs.
Spike says officers are continuing the investigation, looking into Khouzam's background, his relationship to the victim in addition to processing evidence collected at the scene, where Deputies also found the body of a small dog. Khouzam has been charged with aggravated cruelty to an animal in connection to the dog's death.