'Poison Doc' Pleads Guilty

ByABC News

C E N T R A L  I S L I P, N.Y., Sept. 6, 2000 -- Former physician Michael Swangopleaded guilty to fatally poisoning three patients in a Long Islandhospital and was sentenced to life without parole today.

U.S. District Judge Jacob Mishler handed down the consecutiveterms after Michael Swango entered his pleas. Swango, a former OhioState intern, fidgeted slightly, but showed no emotion whensentenced.

The sentence was part of a plea agreement in which Swangoadmitted guilt to five of nine counts in a federal indictment.Family members of his victims were in court for the sentencing.

Victims’ Survivors Urge Stiff PenaltySwango refused an opportunity to address the court beforesentencing, but admitted to the three murders in open court.

In each case, Swango stated he intentionally killed the victimby “administering toxic substances which I knew were likely tocause death.”

Outraged survivors of his victims had urged the judge to handdown a harsh sentence.

“I just hope Michael spends the rest of his life in a livinghell,” said Carol Fisher, daughter of victim Thomas Sammarco.

Swango additionally pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracyto defraud for lying on his resume in order to get medical jobs.Each of those counts carried a 14-month jail term.

Swango, dubbed Dr. Death in various news reports, had previouslypleaded innocent to all charges. He was arrested on the New Yorkallegations just days before his release from a federal prison inColorado, where he was jailed for lying about his criminal recordto get his job on Long Island.

Today, he pleaded guilty to the 1993 murders of threeelderly patients — Sammarco, George Siano and Aldo Serini —at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Northport.

Swango allegedly injected the three with toxins. In two of thecases, he then told other hospital staff that the patients’families had issued “do not resuscitate” orders, the indictmentsaid.

Years of Medical Practice

Swango graduated from Southern Illinois University MedicalSchool in 1983. There, according to James B. Stewart’s nonfictionbook Blind Eye, he was dubbed “Double-0 Swango” by classmateswho joked that he had a license to kill after several of his casesended in death.

While an intern at Ohio State University Hospital in 1984,Swango allegedly killed a 19-year-old gymnast with a fatal dose ofpotassium. Swango was never prosecuted for that death, or foranother alleged poisoning of an OSU patient who survived.

Swango was not permitted to return for the second year of hisresidency. Instead he returned to his Quincy, Ill., home and took ajob as an emergency medical technician. His stint ended with hisconviction for lacing his co-workers’ coffee and doughnuts with antpoison. Five of them became ill, and Swango served two years of afive-year prison sentence. He also lost his medical license.

His prison release coincided with various unsuccessful attemptsto revive his career. He eventually landed a 1993 residency at theState University of New York at Stony Brook by lying on his jobapplication. That lie resulted in a 42-month prison sentence inColorado.

The three Long Island patients died between July and October1993 while staying at the veterans’ hospital, which was run by theschool.

Swango was dismissed by SUNY-Stony Brook after his past recordbecame public knowledge, and he soon relocated to Zimbabwe. Withina year of his arrival, patients in a hospital there were showingsigns of poisoning, the indictment said.

In July 1995, a Zimbabwe hospital suspended Swango frompractice. He was finally arrested two years later at O’Hare Airportin Chicago, where he was boarding a flight to Saudi Arabia for anew medical job.

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