- - Monday, February 20, 2017


By Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer

Regnery, $27.99, 256 pages

I followed the Kermit Gosnell murder trial in 2013, which was covered by the local Philadelphia media, but ignored largely by the national media.

Now journalists and documentary filmmakers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer offer a book on the life and crimes of the Philadelphia abortion doctor who was convicted of three counts of murder by using scissors to sever the spinal cords of babies delivered alive, as well as various other crimes.

As the authors note, Gosnell destroyed records and often came in on Sundays without his staff and performed numerous illegal late-term abortions, so there is no telling just how many babies he murdered in this fashion and by other means — hence the book’s subtitle, “America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer.”

The case began, the authors explain, with a drug bust.

“It wasn’t a homicide case — until it was. Originally the authorities weren’t investigating murder, or even illegal late-term abortions. They were just trying to bust a prescription drug mill,” the authors write. “But they wound up discovering something far worse.”

The authors credit Jim Wood, a detective with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, with the discovery of Gosnell’s horrendous crimes. Detective Wood worked closely with DEA Special Agent Steve Dougherty and FBI Special Agent Jason Huff. The three investigators were called “the three amigos,” a light touch to an otherwise dark case.

In 2009 Detective Wood was attached to a joint federal and local task force assigned to combat Philadelphia’s growing illegal prescription-drug trade. The potentially lethal painkiller Oxycodone was the favorite drug on the street, which sold as high as $80 a tablet. Unethical and criminal doctors sold prescriptions of Oxycodone and other drugs to street drug dealers, which was and is a lucrative criminal enterprise.

Detective Wood worked his informants to uncover the networks of prescription drug dealers and suppliers, one of which led Detective Wood to Gosnell. Gosnell was a respected and affable black doctor who owned and operated a women’s medical clinic in a poor neighborhood in West Philadelphia, but Detective Wood suspected that he was one of the city’s biggest suppliers of illegal prescriptions.

The team honed in on Gosnell’s clinic, where his employees handed over prescriptions to fake patients — called “smurfs” by the investigators — and to one particular smurf that just happened to be an undercover cop.

The three investigators had an informant make buys at Gosnell’s clinic, which were recorded. One of Gosnell’s employees, Latosha Lewis, worked the front desk and gave out prescriptions. She was brought in and told the investigators about Gosnell’s “pill-smurfing.”

She told the investigators that Gosnell had three types of patients: “seekers” (drug dealers and users), procedures (women seeking abortions), and people who were sick. On a typical night, the investigators learned, Gosnell would sell 200 prescriptions.

Latosha Lewis also told the investigators about the unsafe and unhygienic conditions at the clinic. Unlicensed workers treated patients, decomposing medical waste lay about and the two cats who roamed freely through the clinic had fleas. She also told them about Karnamaya Mongar, a woman who died at the clinic after an abortion. The death, she said, “just wasn’t right.”

On the night of the raid on the clinic, Detective Wood approached Gosnell on the street in front of the clinic and told him he was a target of the investigation.

“He was typical Gosnell, like, this how do you describe this like a calm Hannibal Lector-type mentality, like, what’s this all about?” Detective Wood recalled.

The investigators described the clinic to the grand jury as deplorable. There were semi-conscious women moaning in chairs, cat hair everywhere and the surgical rooms were unsanitary. DEA Special Agent Dougherty compared the clinic to a bad gas station restroom.

And it got worst — much worst. The investigators discovered aborted fetuses and medical waste in containers and in one cupboard there was a shelf full of jars that contained severed baby feet.

The authors go on to describe the clinic’s other horrors and the subsequent grand jury investigation, the shortcomings of public officials who allowed the clinic to operate all those years, as well as the trial and the aftermath of Gosnell’s conviction. The authors make the claim that the national media did not cover the case adequately due to their pro-abortion bias.

“Gosnell” is somewhat convoluted and often repetitive, but the authors offer a compelling and truly sad story that should be read by both pro- and anti-abortion people. This crime story is bigger than the issue of abortion, in my view.

Kermit Gosnell, who is in prison serving a life sentence, is a truly egomaniacal, greedy and heartless criminal, a monster far worse than the fictional Hannibal Lecter, as the former doctor murdered innocent babies delivered alive.

• Paul Davis is a writer who covers crime, espionage, terrorism and the military.

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