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Testimony Begins On VA Victims

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Testimony Begins On VA Victims

By John Barton

DETROIT — Federal prosecutors today began the first in a series of victim-by-victim accounts of sudden patient breathing failures in the Ann Arbor VA Hospital.

Helen Stout of Ypsilanti told of her efforts to find help for a man named Emmet Lutz who, the prosecution charges, was injected with a paralyzing drug on July 27,1975.

Lutz, a patient in the hospital’s third floor intensive care unit (ICU), is one of seven men Leonora Perez and Filipina Narciso are accused of poisoning with the paralyzing drug Pavulon.

"Mr. Lutz was sort of thrashing around in his bed,” Stout testified. “He seemed short of breath, like a man who had been running.”

Narciso and Perez, both of whom were nurses in the ICU, allegedly used Pavulon, which paralyzes breathing muscles, to poison Lutz and the other hospitalized veterans.

Under questioning by assistant U.S. attorney Richard Yanko, Stout said she recalled speaking to Narciso shortly before the attack on Lutz.

But, Stout also testified, she could not recall how long after she spoke with Narciso that Lutz stopped breathing. She also said she never saw Narciso walk toward or stand at Lutz's bedside.

Lutz was revived from the sudden breathing failure by hospital emergency technicians.

Stout, who was to undergo cross-examination by defense lawyers later today, was in the hospital that day visiting her husband Glenn, an Ypsilanti area Realtor.

Glenn Stout later died at the hospital and prosecutors once tried unsuccessfully to list him as one of the victims in the charges against Perez and Narciso.

He suffered at least three breathing failures during his stay in the hospital, all of which were termed “suspicious” by investigators,

On Thursday, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chemists briefly touched on their analysis of intravenous (IV) fluids that were dripping nourishment into the body of one victim the night of August 15,1975.

The chemists said analysis showed that the IV solution was uncontaminated at the time the patient, John McCrery, suffered a sudden breathing failure prosecutors say was induced by an injection of Pavulon.

McCrery survived the alleged attempt on his life, but died several months later following a heart attack.

Federal prosecutors were denied use of chemical analysis of three other IV fluid bags taken from two more men who suffered sudden breathing failures that same night.

In ruling against the prosecution’s request to enter the IV solutions into evidence, U.S. District Court Judge Philip Pratt said the prosecution had failed to prove the bags were the same ones in use when the victims, Joseph Brown and William Loesch, suddenly stopped breathing.

Chemical findings that Pavulon was not present in the IV solutions is essential to prosecution contentions that the powerful muscle relaxing drug was injected into intravenous feeding tubes somewhere between the bag and the point where the tubes enter the stricken patient’s bodies.

Because three of the IV bags were ruled out as evidence against the nurses, defense lawyers may try to argue that those victims’ IV solutions could have been laced with Pavulon by someone who could have been far from the hospital by the time the drug started taking effect.

That theory is known by investigators and others familiar with the case as the so-called “Time Bomb Theory”

In related matters, prosecutors won admission into evidence urine samples taken from the same three men, McCrery, Loesch and Brown.

Although the prosecution has yet to call the chemists who analyzed the three samples, it has been reported that traces of Pavulon were found in urine taken from McCrery and Loesch.

Reportedly no Pavulon was found in the Brown sample. Brown, whom doctors found dead in a fifth-floor ward shortly after the Aug. 15 attacks on McCrery and Loesch, is one of the two men Narciso and Perez are accused of killing. McCrery and Loesch were both named as poisoning victims in the indictment against the two women.