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Linda Snyder - Director of Marketing
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Colorado Springs Hospital Settles Wrongful Death Lawsuit

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Memorial Hospital settled a wrongful death lawsuit Wednesday with Donald Rifkin, whose wife shot and killed the couple’s boys and then herself shortly after being released from the Colorado Springs-owned hospital in 2005.

Rifkin will receive $325,000, according to city documents obtained by The Gazette.

On April 22, 2005, Julie Rifkin, 41, made threats to a co-worker about killing herself and her two young sons. She was taken to Memorial Hospital where she worked as a volunteer chaplain and knew many of the people who worked there.

She convinced Memorial’s Dr. Clinton Fouss and Yvonne Sletta, a licensed clinical social worker that her threats were not serious, claiming she made the comment out of haste, and she would not actually want to kill herself. Memorial’s report showed Julie Rifkin had been battling depression and told Fouss she was taking anti-depressant medications. She had also confided to a co-worker that she was depressed that she lost her job at The Navigators and she was lonely. Hospital officials had the option of holding her for 72 hours if they determined she was a threat either to herself or others. She was released within two hours.

The very next day, Rifkin bought a handgun at a pawnshop and shot her two sons, Nathan Rifkin, 13, and Gabriel Rifkin, 12, in the head as they slept in their beds. She then shot and killed herself.

72 hours might have saved those two boys and their mother.

Her husband of 18 years, Donald Rifkin had been laid off from his job in Colorado Springs and was working in South Carolina at the time. He was never notified from hospital officials that his wife had been admitted or why.

If Memorial Hospital had chosen to keep Rifkin for 72 hours, maybe the boys would have been placed with Child Protective Services and maybe their father would have been notified. At least they would have had a chance. Instead they were murdered by their own mother as they slept in their beds.

If Julie Rifkin had been held for just 72 short hours the outcome might have been different. For more information on wrongful death lawsuits, visit our wrongful death section.