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Nurses Await Tests At Prison

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Nurses Await Tests At Prison

By John Barton


Leonora Perez and Filipina Narciso, accompanied by an entourage of 13 friends and relatives, including the Filipino consul general from Chicago, late Thursday entered a West Virginia prison to begin extensive psychiatric testing and evaluation.

“They were tired after the long trip,” said Carson B. Markley, warden at the Federal Reformatory for Women in Alderson, W. Va., “and I am told they were somewhat apprehensive.

“But,” Markley continued. “I think they were somewhat relieved at the same time when they saw the place here was more like a college campus, and not surrounded by high fences or guard towers.”

The women, convicted in July of conspiracy and poisoning five patients at the Ann Arbor VA Hospital during the summer of 1975, will spend up to 90 days undergoing presentence “observation and study” ordered last week by U.S. District Court Judge Philip Pratt.

When prison officials complete their study, Perez, 33, and Narciso, 31, will return to Detroit where Pratt will pass final sentence.

They face maximum terms of life imprisonment.

Located in the southeast corner of the state, Alderson is a 50-year-old minimum security prison, and the only federal institution exclusively for women.

Inmates, or residents, as Markley prefers to call them, do not wear prison garb. Perez and Narciso will live in cottages, and each will have keys to their own rooms. Prison authorities said today the women, will not be living in the same cottage, but “they will be able to see each other every day.”

After an initial orientation period, the two former nurses will be assigned routine jobs which could include work in the institution’s primary industry, the garment factory.

The factory makes gowns and pajamas for patients in Veteran’s Administration hospitals as well as uniforms for other federal employees.

According to prison officials, the women, looking weary after the trip from Michigan and appearing “apprehensive and anxious” surrendered to guards at the institution’s front gate about 8:20 p.m.

They were accompanied by friends, relatives and other supporters including Rudolfo Sanchez, the Philippines’ consul general from Chicago.

Sanchez, refusing to comment on the case or the controversial guilty verdict, said he accompanied Perez and Narciso to provide a little “moral support.”

Narciso, of Ypsilanti, and Perez, of Ann Arbor, came separately to this country in 1971 from the Philippine Islands. Both women are citizens of the Philippines whose applications for American citizenship were placed in limbo after a federal grand jury indicted them in 1976.

The women, both of whom were regarded as highly skilled registered nurses in the Fuller Road Hospital’s intensive care unit, were charged in connection with a series of mysterious patient breathing failures and deaths which authorities charged were caused by deliberate injections of the paralyzing drug Pavulon.

A federal jury convicted each woman of conspiracy and poisoning five patients with Pavulon to end a complex 13-week trial.

Pratt was to sentence the women last week, but instead he ordered the psychiatric studies which began in Alderson today. One prosecutor said Pratt ordered the evaluations to “learn more about them as individual human beings.”

Meanwhile, the women’s four defense lawyers continue to polish oral arguments they will present next month when they seek a new trial.

In an 80-page motion and supporting legal documents researched for the most part by Michael Moran of Ann Arbor, one of Narciso’s lawyers, the defense team asks Pratt to overturn the jury’s findings by declaring a mistrial, ordering a new trial or entering judgement of innocent.

In support of their contentions, the lawyers cite instances of prosecution misconduct during the trial and judicial error.