1. 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
    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 '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
    trouble before."

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


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    About natalie

    Joined: Sep '00; Posts: 99; Likes: 2


  3. by   natalie
    Second news write-up:


    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

    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

    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

    "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."

  4. by   realnursealso/LPN
    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.

  5. by   natalie
    If anyone would like to respond to this, here are a few links below: <>
  6. by   greg in mass
    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.