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NURSE MURDERED

This is a catastrophe. How was this nurse placed in such an unsafe situation? I will add additional posts with links to the newspapers, authorities, so that we might send our letters to speak for this dead sister. It doesn't look like she had any immediate family to do that for her.

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Mental patient kills nurse, police say

By Colleen Mastony, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, April 11, 2001

PORT ST. LUCIE -- A mental patient who said he was sent by God to rid the

world of bad people is accused of beating a nurse to death with his fists and

injuring two other patients as he was being involuntarily committed to a

hospital early Tuesday.

An orderly said he had left nurse Alda Ellington, 47, alone with Alberto

Serrano, 34, of Stuart after being called away to quiet a disturbance in

another part of Savannas Hospital & Treatment Center.

When the orderly left, Serrano was calmly eating a tuna fish sandwich. Ten

minutes later another nurse saw him wandering the hallways. The orderly

returned and found Ellington in a pool of blood inside the ward for severely

disturbed patients.

Serrano was charged with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted

murder and is being held without bail at the St. Lucie County jail.

In a separate incident three days before, Serrano had punched a patient

unprovoked while in the waiting room of a different psychiatric hospital, New

Horizons in St. Lucie County, while he was waiting to be admitted there,

according to a St. Lucie County Sheriff's report. Deputies arrested him on a

misdemeanor charge of battery but released him the next day on $500 bond.

Ellington had stopped breathing by the time paramedics arrived at Savannas at

2:45 a.m. She sustained head injuries and died at the scene, according to

paramedics. After the rescue crew left with Ellington, a staff member

discovered two elderly patients had been beaten while sleeping in their

unlocked rooms.

Olive Simpson, 75, of Wellington was in critical condition at St. Lucie

Medical Center Tuesday night. Elizabeth Scott, 64, of Port St. Lucie, was

treated at the St. Lucie Medical Center for a broken nose and released back

to Savannas.

Deputies found Serrano, 34, of 2917 Delmar Ave., soaking wet and quietly

sitting in a chair outside the hospital. He had jumped in a nearby pond after

the attack.

Serrano answered basic questions and gave police his name and age in a low,

unwavering voice. Asked what happened, he said, "I don't know." His swollen

hands had deep cuts on the knuckles.

Though he later confessed, officials were not sure whether that statement

would be admissable in court because of questions surrounding his competency.

"If he is found to be insane, then you could never prosecute," Assistant

State Attorney Lynn Park said at a news conference Tuesday. "Whether they

know right from wrong, that's the basic issue."

Police had taken Serrano to New Horizons of the Treasure Coast on Friday,

according to Serrano's girlfriend Nadia Pena, 27. Friends in a house where he

had been staying called police after Serrano woke them up in the middle of

the night, yelling "things from the Bible," preaching to and slapping them,

Pena said. The friends refused to press charges, so Serrano was taken to New

Horizons, Pena said.

Out to punish 'bad people'

"He always said the same thing," Pena said. "(He said smile.gif 'Don't worry about

anything because I'm going to take care of all the bad people in the world' "

Bad people were those who "did not follow God's rules . . . like fornicators,

child abusers, drug addicts, his wife," Pena said. Serrano was separated from

his wife, according to Pena. She had known Serrano for three months.

Pena bailed Serrano out of the St. Lucie jail Saturday after the incident at

New Horizons. "He was fine. He was very happy to see me," she said. New

Horizons chief operating officer John Romano declined to comment on the

incident.

Serrano also seemed fine on Monday when Pena arrived home from work about

8:30 p.m. She drove him back to his apartment and was about to leave when she

found him in the bathroom with a knife. "He said, `God is calling me and he

wants me to do it,' " Pena said. She took him to Martin Memorial Medical

Center about 12:30 a.m.

Doctors there were familiar with him, Pena said, and they decided to transfer

him to Savannas Hospital under the Baker Act, which allows officials to

involuntarily commit a person who has been determined to be a threat to

himself or others.

Pena followed the transport car to Savannas Hospital. When Serrano arrived

shortly after 2 a.m., the nurse at the intake station was busy with another

patient. She asked orderly James Chambers, 32, to take Serrano back to the

intensive treatment ward, Chambers said.

Serrano was calm and cooperative as Chambers led him to the ward, in an

isolated section of the hospital, and searched him for weapons, Chambers

said. Serrano said he was hungry and Chambers gave him a tuna fish sandwich.

"This guy was calm and cool," Chambers said.

Chambers was the only male staff member on-duty that night, he said. Serrano

seemed passive, and it seemed safe to leave him with Ellington when Chambers

was called to another unit, Chambers said.

About 10 minutes later, another nurse called to report seeing a strange man

wandering the halls and trying to unlock the door in another ward. Chambers

went to investigate and found Ellington. Serrano had used Ellington's keys to

escape the locked ward.

There is no alarm button to signal an emergency on the ward, sheriff's

officials said. The ward's heavy doors and isolated location would have

prevented anyone from hearing a struggle, Chambers said.

Savannas Hospital, a 70-bed facility owned by Liberty Management Group,

released the following statement Tuesday: "We are deeply saddened by the

death of a staff member. Mental illness is a devastating, often chronic

illness, which requires staff dedication and compassion. This particular

staff member had a deep commitment to treating mental health patients and had

worked in this field for the last 25 years."

Meanwhile, friends mourned Ellington.

"Alda was the nicest person you ever want to meet," Chambers said. "She was

always smiling." A native of Jamaica, she had moved to Port St. Lucie about

12 years ago from New York City. She had worked as a nurse at the Regional

Juvenile Detention Center in Fort Pierce until a year ago, when she started

working the night shift at Savannas Hospital. She had married in 1993 and

divorced in 1997, according to county records. Since then she lived alone.

She did not have any children, but kept a wide circle of friends.

Alcohol leads to arrests

Serrano has a criminal history that includes driving under the influence of

alcohol in 1998 and 1994, carrying a concealed weapon in 1989, and several

traffic violations over the past decade. Reports indicate he was under the

influence of alcohol in most cases, and several mention that he was violent

either before or after his arrest.

A native of Puerto Rico, he has worked as a carpenter and roofer for more

than a dozen years, primarily in Martin County. Friends said he was currently

working for Piper Aircraft in Vero Beach.

He was married twice and has an 8-year-old daughter with his second wife,

Kimberly, court records show. In 1991, Serrano wrote a letter to a Martin

County judge saying he had been hospitalized for mental problems for three

months and was experiencing financial problems.

In 1995, after he was charged with violating a probation term stemming from

his drunken-driving conviction, Serrano's wife wrote a letter stating her

husband had suffered from "mental as well as physical illnesses" which caused

him to lose a job.

"Alberto is a very fine and respectable person," his wife, Kimberly, wrote.

"He has his faults, but he is a good person. He has never been in any major

trouble before."

Staff writers Teresa Lane, Nirvi Shah, Jim Reeder, Jill Taylor and Pat Moore

contributed to this story.

colleen_mastony@p...

Second news write-up:

FAMILY, FRIENDS HONOR SLAIN NURSE

By Christie Caliendo

Port St. Lucie - The nurse killed at SAvannas Hospital early Tuesday had

dedicated her life to caring for mentally ill patients.

Alda M. Ellington, 47, was allegedly beaten to death by incoming patient

Alberto Serrano between 2 and 2:30 AM while on duty in the psychiatric

treatment center on Walton Rd.

She had served in the nursing profession for 25 years, hospital officials

said.

Patricia Brown, Executive Director of Savannas Hospital, said Ellington "had

a deep commitment to treating mental health patients" -- a commitment that

caused her to be in the path of danger Tuesday.

Saying he was deeply saddened by her death, Ellington's uncle, Eric P. Coore,

could not talk long but said she was a "darling".

A close friend of the family, Janice Jones, said Ellington "was an impeccable

person, both personally and professionally".

At Ellington's house, at 2062 S.E. Hanford Rd, her front yard reflected that

style, with a well-groomed yard, flowers and trees. Authorities said she

lived alone.

Across the street, neighbor Elaine Gordon sobbed as she stared at the house

where just the day before she had seen her friend. She said Ellington loved

to spend time in her yard taking care of the flowers, and that she would stop

and give Gordon a hug every time she drove by.

She was "warm, caring and concerned. One of the loveliest ladies on the

block", Gordon said.

"She was here yesterday and gone today". Gordon said as she made an effort

to stop the tears. "Now there is a void, just a memory. I don't know what I

am going to do now. She was one of the best neighbors on the block, a

pleasure, a joy. It was a blessing to know her for the period of time that I

did."

Gordon said she and Ellington had a special bond because Gordon was a nurse

in a vereran's hospital in western Los Angeles, and the two would discuss the

profession. Ironically, Gordon left the profession when she was attacked and

severely injured by a patient in 1974.

Gordon said she was shocked by what happened to Ellington and questions how

the hospital officials could have allowed Ellington -- who Gordon described

as small at 5'4"--- to be alone with someone dangerous enough to beat her to

death.

"Why was he not in restraints?" she said, continuing to stare at her friend's

vacant house across the street.

"Why was there not an attendant there? Where was her protection?" Gordon

asked. "I can't visualize her in that situation. I can't visualize someone

murdering her. I can't begin to imagine the fright she experienced during

the attack."

realnursealso/LPN, LPN

Specializes in Peds Homecare. Has 34 years experience.

What a terrible tragedy. Will this be serious enough for the powers that be to see we need better staffing? My heart goes out to her friends and coworkers.

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I feel deeply sorry for this nurse and everyone who was involved. Some people do not realize how bad psychiatric facilities can be. Many times if you compare a psychiatric facility with a prison, you will see that the violence levels and injuries on staff and other patients happen more often at psychiatric facilities. To be honest with you, I'm not surprised that this has happened. Why? Because I have worked in psyche for many years, and dangerous things happen often....especially when there is insuffient amount of staff. In addition, patients have less restrictions than people believe they would in a psychiatric facility. Too often people are too concerned about the so called "patients' rights" issue and disregard the rights of staff. Staff are placed in very dangerous situations and very little is done about it. Administration ignors these problems and they continue to cut our staff and place us and the patients in unsafe situations.....and only to save a buck.

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