The man accused of beating his roommate to death in a Long Beach hospital has a history of mental health issues, according to his family, who say they’re mystified how he even ended up in a city so far from his home in Ventura County.
Reginald Panthier, 37, appeared in a Long Beach courtroom Thursday to face a murder charge in the death of Francisco Sanchez. The 73-year-old grandfather was at College Medical Center to treat a routine urinary tract infection when he was attacked and left bleeding in his bed, according to his family.
Authorities haven’t said why Panthier was at the College Medical Center, which has about 220 beds, most of which are licensed for behavioral health services. But police say he attacked Sanchez around 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 31. Officers quickly arrested Panthier, and medics rushed Sanchez to another hospital where he died just more than a week later.
Police said they don’t know what prompted the attack, and Panthier’s family says they’re also confused.
Kwame Panthier said his brother, Reginald, lives in government-funded housing in Ventura. He said Reginald has mental health issues and isn’t fully able to take care of himself or manage his money, so a case manager assists him. The family declined to go into more detail.
Reginald also has a criminal history in Ventura County. Court records show he pleaded guilty to threatening an elderly victim in 2012 and pleaded guilty to vehicle burglary in 2002.
Kwame said he last saw Reginald about a month ago. He took his brother out to lunch and then shopping for clothes and shoes. He said everything seemed fine until this week when he glanced at his phone and happened across a news story about this brother being arrested.
“I read it twice just to double check,” he said.
He quickly called his parents, and the family is now trying to piece together how Reginald went from Ventura to Long Beach to jail. The family said they don’t know of any connection Reginald had to the area.
In court Thursday morning, Kwame and his father stood up in the audience, straining to get the best view of Reginald, who was led in wearing an anti-suicide vest.
Reginald, who is 6-foot-1 and weighs about 200 pounds, said little during the hearing, answering only a procedural question as his attorney entered a not-guilty plea. A judge ordered him held on more than $1 million bail.
One row in front of the Panthier family, Sanchez’s loved-ones also looked on. His son Ramon Sanchez held a Bible as he sat through the proceedings.
In an online fundraiser, Ramon wrote that his father is the one who taught him to love God.
“He was my first teacher, coach, and mentor,” Ramon wrote. “He came here from Mexico to give us more opportunity and a better life. He was the one that taught me about work ethic, respect and being a good human being.”
Editor’s note: Sanchez’s family originally said he was found bleeding on the floor at the hospital but said later he was actually in a bed. This story has been updated to reflect that.
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