Kin Suspicious About New Orleans Hospital Deaths After Hurricane Katrina

A woman who prosecutors say was killed by a doctor and two nurses in a sweltering, flooded hospital after Hurricane Katrina had suffered from bronchitis but was otherwise in good health, family members said.

"She didn't act like a 90-year-old," Jennie Crabtree said of her mother, Rose Savoie. "She was all there. She knew where she was. She knew who she was."

Dr. Anna Pou and nurses Lori Budo and Cheri Landry are accused of administering fatal doses of morphine and a sedative to Savoie and three other patients at Memorial Medical Center as the city descended into chaos.

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Crabtree said she was angry at the way her mother died.

The caregivers "found a way to get themselves out," she said Wednesday.

Even if conditions at the hospital seemed unendurable, nobody should have made the decision to kill her, said Sue Portier, Savoie's 48-year-old granddaughter.

"If a person's about to pass away. It doesn't matter. It's God's will," Portier said. "They don't know how much time a person has left."

Pou, Budo and Landry were arrested late Monday. All three were working at Memorial, where patients and staff were stranded for days without running water or communications after the hurricane overwhelmed New Orleans' levees.

"I consider the nurses murderers. They were in a bad situation, but they were murderers," Lou Ann Savoie Jacob, another of Savoie's daughters, said Wednesday in a telephone interview.

Crabtree and Portier said they did not even know that Savoie had been taken to Memorial until after her death. They said Savoie was transferred there from a facility in St. Bernard Parish as the storm approached.

According to court documents, Budo was seen injecting Savoie with something Sept. 1, three days after Katrina left four-fifths of the city under water. "That burns," Savoie allegedly said when she was injected.

Click here to read the charges against the hospital workers (pdf).

The daughter of another patient in the case said her mother, Ireatha Watson, had been very sick, with gangrene in both legs and dementia, but that she been stable two days before Katrina hit. Watson, 89, had been scheduled to have her legs amputated Aug. 29, the day the hurricane hit.

"I found it strange that she passed away the way she did, and I couldn't get any information," said Paulette Harris, Watson's daughter.

The widow of another victim, 61-year-old Emmett Everett Sr., declined to comment Wednesday. Everett, who was 380 pounds and paralyzed, appeared "conscious, awake and alert" before he was sedated, according to the arrest affidavit.

The trio of caregivers were each accused of being "a principal to second-degree murder," which carries a mandatory life sentence if convicted. Actual charges, however, will be up to the New Orleans district attorney, who had not received the attorney general's investigation report by Wednesday.

Kris Wartelle, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Charles Foti, said there could be more arrests.

Attorneys for the caregivers say their clients are innocent and provided care for patients long after authorities stranded them with little aid.

The Memorial investigation was part of a sweeping look at more than 240 deaths at five hospitals and 13 nursing homes following Katrina.

More than 40 bodies were recovered from Memorial hospital two weeks after Katrina. Some died of natural causes, but Wartelle said at least nine of the deaths appeared suspicious enough to merit charges. The four listed in the arrest warrant affidavit were the only ones investigators could immediately tie to Pou, Landry and Budo, she said.