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The quest for perfection may have ended the life of a 42-year-old beauty.
Elena Caro of Las Vegas had smooth skin and wavy hair. She wanted firmer skin and a younger figure – so she secretly booked a buttocks enhancement procedure by two people who performed it in the back room of a tile business, authorities said.
On Saturday, the wife and mother from Las Vegas was found walking the streets in agony after the surgery. A few minutes later, she was dead at North Vista Hospital in North Las Vegas.
Ruben Dario Matallana-Galvas, 55, and Carmen Olfidia Torres-Sanchez, 47, were arrested hours after the surgery for investigation of murder, police said.
The husband and wife were being held without bail at Clark County jail pending a court appearance on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear if they had lawyers.
Las Vegas homicide chief Lt. Lew Roberts said backroom clinics can be found across Sin City. But he said there hadn't been any deaths involving unlicensed physicians in at least six years.
"The tragic thing about this case is that this isn't an isolated incident of somebody going to an unlicensed alleged medical facility," he said.
Matallana-Galvas and Torres-Sanchez had purchased airplane tickets to return to their native Columbia on April 22 but were trying to catch an earlier flight at McCarran International Airport when they were arrested, police said.
Neither suspect had a license to practice medicine in Nevada, officials said. Matallana-Galvas told police he was a homeopathic doctor in Colombia.
Under questioning, he also told detectives he injected Caro with a gel substance, and she was able to walk away from his office after the procedure, according to a police report.
However, Elizabeth Flores, an aide to Matallana-Galvas, told police he had called and said something had gone wrong, and Flores had her husband drive him and his wife to the airport, the police report said.
Caro's daughter, 17-year-old Janet Villalovos, told The Associated Press that her family had begged Caro not to undergo cosmetic surgery.
However, encouraged by a friend who said she had successfully received buttocks enhancement surgery from Matallana-Galvas, Caro booked an appointment for facial Botox injections with him earlier this month.
When no complications arose, Caro quickly scheduled the buttocks surgery. She told only her daughter because she was worried that her husband, brother and sister would be too critical of the procedure and try to talk her out of it.
That morning, Villalovos said, she drove her mother to the makeshift medical office and gave Matallana-Galvas a warning.
"I told them, take care of her, please," Villalovos recalled. "He told me everything is going to be fine. Don't worry."
Villalovos watched the doctor and his wife inject one shot into her mother's buttocks. The sight made her squeamish, so she told her mother she was leaving and would return in four hours when the procedure was done. An hour later, her mother called to say everything was going well.
Later, her mother didn't answer repeated calls, Villalovos said.
When Villalovos returned to the makeshift medical office, it was locked and appeared abandoned. She asked Gilbert Estrada, the owner of Tiles and More, to unlock the door. Inside, the bed, curtains and curtain rods that had filled the room that morning were gone.
Estrada said Matallana-Galvas rented the small office two weeks ago and had said he would relocate by the end of the month.
"They were looking for a bigger place to serve more people," Estrada said in Spanish.
Caro was already dead when her daughter began searching for her, according to an arrest report. Onlookers had called emergency officials, who picked her up in an ambulance and took her to the hospital.
Roberts said police do not know how Caro ended up in the remote area but suspect she was dropped off there.
Matallana-Galvas said he had told Caro he didn't have the proper equipment to perform the procedure but did it anyway, according to the arrest report.
Nevada had no information on file on him or his wife, said Douglas C. Cooper, executive director of the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners.
Police are looking for other possible victims.
Wailing family members gathered Monday at Caro's house, where photos of her were displayed alongside a rosary and a row of candles adorned with Catholic saints.
Villalovos said she and her mother did not know Matallana-Galvas was not a licensed doctor, although his office walls did not bear any certificates, licenses or diplomas.
Villalovos said she trusted him because he treated her mother professionally and with authority.
"It was not her time to go yet," Villalovos said.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.