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Archive for March 21st, 2015

Retired FBI Agent To Appear on Q & A Panel in Detroit for Documentary on Mystery VA Hospital Deaths

Greg Stejskal was a young FBI agent in Detroit when he was assigned to a task force investigating the mysterious deaths of patients at the Ann Arbor Veterans Administration Hospital. He served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.

Stejskal will appear on a Q & A panel Sunday at the Detroit Free Press Film Festival following the screening of a documentary on the mystery entitled “That Strange Summer.” The film will be shown at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at the Marvin and Betty Danto Lecture Hall at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Tickets are $10, $9 for DIA members and seniors.

Stejskal wrote a lengthy column about the VA deaths. It first appeared on the website, ticklethewire.com, in 2011.

Greg Stejskal
By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

In 1977, two , Filipina Narciso and Leonora Perez, were convicted of poisoning patients at the Ann Arbor Veterans Administration Hospital after one of the longest trials in U.S. history.

The prosecution and verdict became a cause celebre in Ann Arbor, across the nation and in the Philippines. It was widely believed the were made scapegoats as they were immigrant Filipinos.

Months after the convictions, the trial judge ordered a new trial because of his finding of prosecutorial misconduct. The case was never retried.

What little information about the case that is now available on the internet indicates that Narciso and Perez were innocent and “falsely accused.”

In an effort to at least the historical record, I have tried to write an objective of the case.

The case was a classic “whodunit,” and its resolution was worthy of Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes. If this had been a mystery story, the hospital would have been a dark foreboding place, but it wasn’t.

The Ann Arbor Veterans Administration Hospital (VAH) was built in 1953 of reddish brick and generic government architecture. It sits on a hill above the meandering Huron River and on the edge of the north campus of the University of Michigan. This placid scene belied the events that occurred during the summer of 1975 in the hospital.

During a six week period of that summer, there was a sudden spike of patients experiencing breathing failures requiring emergency resuscitation (termed Code 7 emergencies with in the VAH).

Initially the medical staff was not overly concerned as such resuscitations are routine albeit not as frequent as they were beginning to experience. But as the incidents and became more frequent, the staff did become alarmed. Some of the patients were not revived and died.

One staff member, Dr. Anne Hill, an Irish born, Chief of Anesthesiology, was not only concerned, but began to suspect foul play. On August 15th, her suspicion coalesced into a conclusion that someone was intentionally poisoning patients. On that day there were three respiratory failures with in twenty minutes – each resulting in a Code 7 alert and requiring emergency resuscitation.

A Muscle Relaxant

Dr. Hill was present for all three of the Code 7 resuscitations. Upon seeing the first victim, she determined that based on the symptoms, a flaccid state, but with a pulse, the patient had been administered a powerful muscle relaxant.

After doing some diagnostic tests, she concluded that the drug Pavulon (pancuronium bromide) had been given to the patient. (Pavulon is the synthetic equivalent of curare, a plant derived toxin, used by some South American Indians to poison the tips of their blow-gun darts and arrows.)

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