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.
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
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
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
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
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
'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
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
Staff writers Teresa Lane, Nirvi Shah, Jim Reeder, Jill Taylor and Pat Moore
contributed to this story.