- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2006

CHALMETTE, La. (AP) — The husband and wife who owned a nursing home near New Orleans were indicted yesterday on charges of negligent homicide and cruelty in the deaths of 35 patients who perished in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Salvador and Mabel Mangano were initially arrested about two weeks after the Aug. 29, 2005, storm, but a grand jury was unable to convene for months because of damage to government buildings and the displacement of residents.

The couple, who remained free on bond yesterday, owned St. Rita’s nursing home in St. Bernard Parish, a coastal suburb of New Orleans severely flooded by Katrina. Attorneys in the case were under a gag order.

The Manganos were arrested on 34 counts of negligent homicide, but the grand jury added a 35th count in its indictment, representing a body that was found later. The grand jury also added the cruelty charges, accusing the couple of “intentionally or through criminal negligence” mistreating or neglecting 64 patients, including both those who died and those who survived.

In a lawsuit filed last month, the couple sued the government, saying federal, state and local officials failed to keep residents safe and evacuate vulnerable citizens as the storm approached.

The Manganos have argued that their hurricane plan — to keep frail residents in place with food, water and generators rather than risk moving them — was a responsible course of action and that if the levees had held, the deaths would have been avoided. The Manganos’ attorney, James Cobb, has stressed that the nursing home never flooded before Katrina and that the Manganos feared an evacuation could kill some of their patients.

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