“Cardiac Arrest:” Smoke and Mirrors

Waterford Gardens: The Best

 

“Cardiac Arrest?”

Seriously?

So, that’s what may have caused the Jan. 28, 2015 death of 96-year-old Martin “Marty” Knell? “Cardiac Arrest?”

Are you kidding me?

Well, based on the cross-examination Friday by one of murder defendant Monica Melissa (Palacios) Patterson’s defense attorneys, Rene (Ponytail) Flores, the mere mention of cardiac arrest should be of great import to the jury because he made mention of it so often during his cross-examination of a McAllen firefighter and two paramedics called to Knell’s home the morning of his MURDER.

If cardiac arrest was indeed the cause of Knell’s death, or had anything whatsoever to do with his burial, why have I just spent three weeks of valuable time sitting through grueling, mind-numbing court testimony surrounding his MURDER? Why don’t we just dismiss the jury, call it a day, and hit the same bar where criminal defense attorneys and the courthouse judiciary are known to hang out for happy hour?

“Bartender? Another bottle, por favor.”

Let’s just bury the fact that a well-seasoned forensic pathologist has already officially declared that Knell’s death was…wait for it… actually the result of someone placing (a plastic bag) over the old guy’s head while he sat at his dining room table, AKA, homicide by asphyxiation.

If only Patterson’s local defense attorneys could stop the forensic pathologist, Hidalgo County Chief Forensic Pathologist Dr. Norma Jean Farley, from testifying, the forensic autopsy might never be entered into evidence. Too bad for both them and their defendant, however, because the pathologist has already been subpoenaed to testify.

Patterson’s defense attorneys won’t be able to contradict the pathologist’s ruling or impugn her medical credentials (when they try, this week or next, good luck with that); so they do their absolute best during the lead-up to her testimony to confuse the jurors as to the facts surrounding Knell’s death by making repeated reference, as they did last Friday, to “cardiac arrest, cardiac arrest, cardiac arrest” during cross-examination of at least one firefighter and two paramedics called to Knell’s home the morning of his murder. Granted, at the time, all signs pointed to cardiac arrest (after all, his heart had indeed stopped beating); but none of the life-savers had any idea that the old guy had been murdered in cold-blooded fashion approximately 30 minutes prior to their arrival, according to the criminal complaint.

What they didn’t know at the time, was that Knell had already been dead for too long. No way was he coming back to life after approximately 30 minutes with no heart beat. Still, they tried their best to revive him. Until, that is, Patterson sped to the scene with an Advanced Directive for DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) form in hand, demanding that they stop trying to revive Knell.

One more time: Cardiac Arrest.

By the way, Martin “Marty” Knell was actually buried twice. Patterson and members of her high school entourage actually attended that first funeral in early 2015. Immediately after grave-site funeral services had ended, showing her compassion for the family, the accused murderess informed Knell’s only son, Mark, that she was now in complete control of his dad’s estate, waving legal documentation in his face to prove that she was the executrix of the Will, according to court testimony, and, no, he could not enter his dad’s home that day. Tempers flared. The day was sad enough, according to court testimony, but Patterson’s “attitude” at the cemetery only made it that much worse.

Knell’s pastor, Max Grubb, performed the funeral service, and it was shortly after that, that the now-deceased pastor informed Mark Knell that in his opinion, Patterson had manipulated his father, tricked him into signing over the bulk of his estate to Patterson, and as a result of that, according to court testimony, the son had indeed been wronged.

Still, at that point in time, no one had a clue that Martin Knell had been murdered. That came s short time later when the caregiver who was at Knell’s house the morning of his murder – the one who had actually called 911 -- went to the Texas Rangers and spilled the beans, so to speak.

At the time, Patterson was paying the caregiver to take care of Knell. After the murder, according to the criminal complaint, both Patterson and her accomplice, Angel Mario Garza, threatened her if she ever said a word to anyone about what she had just witnessed. Apparently, however, her conscience got the best of her, and she told her story to law enforcement. While Garza had gone inside Knell’s home to murder the old man, Patterson had waited with her in the carport. Just prior to his murder, the caretaker told law enforcement, Knell told her that the accused murderess that he wanted back his Will; meaning the newest one drafted, basically leaving her the vast bulk of his estate, then valued at approximately $1 million.

So now, given the fact that a forensic autopsy has ruled Knell’s death a homicide, the only question still being heatedly debated in court is: so who really murdered the 96-year-old WW II vet?

No big surprise. Patterson missed Knell’s second internment in late August. By that time, she knew she was under suspicion with regard to foul play. Time to lay low.

After the caretaker’s allegations came to light that Knell was a homicide victim and not just the victim of cardiac arrest (natural causes), the Texas Rangers and the Sheriff’s Department started a joint investigation, which ultimately granted them a court order to exhume Knell’s body. A forensic autopsy conducted Aug. 27, 2015 by Dr. Norma Jean Farley ruled his death a homicide by asphyxiation.

Don’t Forget the Plastic Bag

So, no matter how many times Patterson’s attorney (one of four), “Ponytail” Flores, wants to toss out “cardiac arrest” in state District Judge Noe Gonzalez’s 370th courtroom, it’s still a moot point. Knell died because someone placed a plastic bag over his head and snuffed the life out of him (death by asphyxiation). Sure, the 96-year-old WW II vet suffered from chronic coronary disease – that’s not in dispute -- but that’s not what killed him. Also, one could probably make the case that he died from cardiac arrest. After all, his heart did stop beating (an arrest); but that’s because a PLASTIC BAG WAS PLACED OVER HIS HEAD SO HE COULD NO LONGER BREATHE.

We’d all be dead from “cardiac arrest” if someone placed a plastic bag around our respective heads. Hard for the heart to keep beating if no oxygen is passing through our system because we’re gasping for air, but to no avail.

If Flores and Patterson’s entire defense team wants to imply that Knell’s death was the result of cardiac arrest, then please at least qualify it by making mention of the plastic bag and the pathologist’s ruling: death by asphyxiation.

Come on, Wendorf, that’s not the point in a criminal defense case. How naïve can you be?

The point is to get the murder defendant acquitted by whatever means possible during the trial. The defendant’s real guilt or innocence is not the issue in jurisprudence. One of the few exceptions is that the defense attorneys cannot suborn perjury (AKA, persuade a person to lie).

Patterson’s defense team also went to great, repeated lengths last Friday to point out to the jury that Knell suffered from chronic heart disease. Making mention of his medications was also part of the defense strategy, or so it seemed.

Sadly, a lot of people suffer from chronic heart disease. Thankfully for them, however, there isn’t someone with malicious intent standing behind them with a plastic bag in hand, ready to snuff out their life. In fact, people can live for years with chronic coronary (heart) disease if they take care of themselves and follow doctors’ orders, and don’t have the bad luck to run into a killer.

So, maybe being poor has its merits. No one will kill you for your money because you have none.

By the way, heart disease, chronic coronary disease, even a “heart attack” is not the same as “cardiac arrest.”

A “heart attack” (AKA, a myocardial infarction) simply means that a blood vessel delivering oxygen-rich blood to the heart has become blocked, and if the blood flow isn’t restored in relative quick fashion, a section of the heart begins to die.

“Cardiac Arrest” means that the heart’s electrical system has malfunctioned, and unless CPR and/or a defibrillator is used to shock the heart and restore a normal heart rhythm within a few minutes, the person suffering from cardiac arrest will soon be dead.

So, hopefully, despite attorney Flores’s best efforts to enter the term “Cardiac Arrest” into the official court transcript and into the ears and minds of the jurors last week, once the county’s chief forensic pathologist, Dr. Norma Jean Farley (who was subpoenaed last December), takes the witness stand (I can’t wait), the jury will finally and officially learn the real truth: Knell’s death had nothing to do with “Cardiac Arrest,” but everything to do with “Murder.”

In fact, since it appears that “Ponytail” Flores considers himself something of a medical expert, per se, even though he mispronounces “hypertrophy, it’s my guess that he’s going to be given the job of cross-examining Dr. Farley. She doesn’t look as if she suffers fools gladly, so good luck with that. If “Rick” Salinas takes the “cross,” as Patterson’s lead defense attorney, and gets into his long-winded list of irrelevant questions that has nothing to do with the evidence at hand – the autopsy proved that Knell was a murder victim – will Farley stare him down, as if to say, “With as many autopsies as I’m tasked with per year, you’re wasting my time asking me to answer stupid questions, counselor?”

The actual pronunciation is hy-PER-truh-fee, by the way. “Ponytail” was pronouncing it HY-per-trophy. As if the word denotes some sort of über sports trophy to mount on the mantle above the fireplace.

Is Patterson Guilty?

By the way, this written piece is an opinion column, not a news story, so I’m free to write what I want, which allows me to be subjective with regard to this murder trial. That’s the beauty of owning one’s own newspaper: I can wear two hats – news reporter and that of an opinion columnist. I try my best to separate the two. As a news reporter, however, who has been writing about this case since Patterson and her self-confessed accomplice, Angel Mario Garza, were first charged with Knell’s murder in August of 2015, and who has sat through three weeks of court testimony, it’s impossible to have not formed my own opinion about this story that has captured the attention of so many people.

The only thing I won’t write in these opinion columns (just because I consider it unseemly) is to say whether or not I think Patterson is actually guilty of Knell’s murder (she has pleaded not guilty, as has Angel Mario Garza, even though he’s already confessed to his part in the Knell murder). Unfortunately for Garza, his public defender has failed, thus far, to get his signed confession tossed out of court (AKA, Okay, I did admit two years ago that I helped kill the old man, but I now want to take back what I said, please?).

Do I think, however, that Monica Melissa (Palacios) Patterson is guilty of the other three counts to her four-count grand jury indictment that center around theft from both her former employer (Comfort House hospice) and the murder victim? YES. If you would like, you can even underscore the YES. The evidence proving she was a cunning thief of the highest order is not in dispute, in my opinion. Pretty hard to explain away manipulated board minutes, a secret Comfort House bank account about which her board knew nothing, a depleted hospice savings account, a trip to Vegas with her lover (hello, Caesar’s Palace), multiple ATM withdrawals, not to mention Comfort House money that Patterson (allegedly) stole to live a relatively lavish lifestyle (living large) while pulling down an approximate annual salary of $40,000.

In light of all of that evidence (bank statements, doctored board minutes, receipts, Comfort House checks written to pay for personal expenses), what has been the response from her so-called legal dream team, comprised of four high-priced seasoned criminal defense lawyers?

Prosecutors made it all up? This is a terrible conspiracy to tarnish a good woman who comes from a politically connected family who was working her rear off at a non-profit hospice to care for the dying after waddling into work most mornings between 10 and 11?

No.

According to “her legal team,” Monica Melissa (Palacios) Patterson is a woman done wrong. She had no employment contract with Comfort House (a point hammered home to the jury on numerous occasions), nor were there any policy/procedures in place detailing what she could and could not spend during the regular course of performing her duties as the hospice’s chief administrator. So how was she to really know what expenditures were “off limits?”

After all, her defense team has suggested, part of her job was to market Comfort House to potential financial donors and backers, was it not. The implication being, how could she possibly do that (reel in new money) if she didn’t look nice (shopping trips to Dillard’s) and visit with potential donors at expensive restaurants? That motel-room expenditure at the high-end McAllen hotel discovered after a search warrant of Patterson’s office was executed? Well, perhaps she had a business meeting there with one of her hopeful hospice financial donors, who knows.

Okay, we’ll go with that, but let’s also mention that several former Comfort House board members have already testified that they had no clue that the murder defendant had opened a new bank account right under their very noses, was using Comfort House money for restaurant expenses, a trip to Vegas, her son’s expensive high school graduation party, limo rides, trips out of town, and personal home repairs, just to mention a few bits of evidence presented to the jury thus far.

The Lovely Waterford Gardens

I was going to write an opinion column about the way Patterson’s lead defense attorney Ricardo “Rick” Salinas treated Lucille Cavazos, the owner of the Waterford Gardens (assisted living facility in Mission), last Thursday (Oct. 12), with his cross-examination full of totally irrelevant questions (paraphrased but close): “How tall is the (fence) surrounding the building in which the people with dementia are housed?” “How are those patients kept separate from the regular patients?” “Can people who live at Waterford Gardens drive their own car?” “Can they leave anytime they want? “Who checks them out?” “Who’s allowed to enter Waterford Gardens?” “Is everything they bring in searched?”

Snore.

Relevancy? Your Honor.

My two in-laws died at Waterford Gardens in 2010 within six months of each other. So, for me, when Salinas cross-examined Lucille Cavazos, all it did was dredge up all of those terrible, dark memories I had buried (deep) as a means of self-preservation (Thank you, Rick.) When you watch a loved one (my father-in-law) die of painful pancreatic cancer, praying for death to relieve him of his misery, and then watch another (my mother-in-law) die of pneumonia six months later, those mental images never completely disappear from memory. You just try and bury them in your subconscious because they’re so horrific and emotionally painful to recount. When they died, they were living at the Waterford Gardens under hospice care. All the while, Lucille Cavazos and her staff were there to provide care and comfort to both my in-laws and my wife and me.

So when Rick Salinas started peppering Cavazos with irrelevant BS, smoke and mirrors, trying to confuse the jurors as to the real evidence – Patterson had done everything she could to make sure that Martin Knell could never move his wife out of the Comfort House and into Waterford – I had to step outside the courtroom for a few minutes because talking about Waterford Gardens was suddenly hitting too close to home. It was bringing to mind all of the bad memories that I had buried since my in-laws’ respective deaths in 2010.

In point of fact, there is no finer assisted living facility in Hidalgo County, in my opinion, than Waterford Gardens. When the elderly decide they can no longer live on their own, they often choose an assisted living facility. They’re not the same as a nursing home. Medicare and Medicaid won’t pay the bill. Patients, unless they’re under hospice care, either need to have the private means to pay to live in one, as did Martin Knell, or they need what’s called Long-Term Care Insurance. If you get it while you’re still in good health, it’s a bargain.

My wife and I experienced two other similar facilities, so we have a means of comparison. One assisted living facility in Edinburg, where my step-dad lived out his final days, comes close to Waterford, but the absentee owner is seldom there. He lets his hired staff run the place. In comparison, Lucille Cavazos is hands-on at Waterford Gardens. Big difference. She’s not some absentee owner. She cares for her patients the way she would her own parents: with love, kindness, and compassion.

The other assisted living place in which my in-laws lived is a literal hell-hole, but we could never convince my father-in-law to move (my mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s, so she had no say in the matter). Thankfully, eventually, my in-laws moved to Waterford where they fell into the loving, caring arms of both Cavazos and her staff.

The way Salinas hounded Lucille Cavazos off and on for approximately two hours on the witness stand was a complete waste of time, and he could never refute the material facts pertinent to this case, as testified to by Ms. Cavazos: Patterson prevented the murder victim, Martin Knell, from ever seeing his wish granted, which was to move his wife from the Comfort House to the Waterford Gardens, where he would be able to live out her last days with him right by her side (the two could share a room).

To get Mrs. Knell transferred to Waterford Gardens, which is what his son, Mark, testified that his dad wanted done, Lucille Cavazos first had to drive to Comfort House to evaluate Mrs. Knell. That never happened, however. Why? Because according to Cavazos’s testimony last week, Patterson kept putting her off. She either wouldn’t call her back as promised, or she’d tell Cavazos that she didn’t think she could handle “Marty” Knell because he had a “gun problem,” and on and on it went until “Penny” Knell finally died in late October 2014.

According to Cavazos’s testimony last week, however, she was more than happy to welcome the couple to Waterford. First, however, she needed to assess Mrs. Knell, and to do that, she needed to gain entrance to the Comfort House. The only person who could grant her that authority was Melissa Patterson; and she never did.

Those were the facts (court testimony), and Patterson’s flight of legal eagles could never find a way to dispute it. The only thing they could do was muddy up the waters by questioning Cavazos about really important facts to the case, such as how high was the fence at Waterford? Were residents there allowed to drive their own car. Clearly relevant facts important to this murder trial.

On a personal note: if you are looking for an assisted living facility in which to either live or move your parents, there is no finer place in the RGV than the Waterford Gardens. Neither my wife or I could recommend the place more highly.

Cardiac Arrest Nonsense

As with most evidence (witness testimony) produced thus far by state prosecutors (Joseph Orendain and Cregg Thompson) in this capital murder trial that now enters Week 4, Patterson’s defense tactic, by and large, has been to hammer every witness on the stand (except for “Eddie” Suarez) because the accused murderess’s four attorneys have yet to disprove their testimony. So Patterson’s four defense attorneys hound the witnesses with irrelevant questions: “How did you feel while you were being interrogated by (criminal investigators?)”

As a response, might I suggest: “Not as bad as I feel being interrogated by you wasting my time asking inane questions while I’m on the witness stand.”

Exactly what does any of that have to do, for instance, with the fact that former San Juan City Commissioner “Eddie” Suarez had just testified (Oct. 10) to having been engaged in a long-term adulterous affair with the murder defendant and had admitted that she gave him $10,000 to pay off some past-due taxes?

“Traumatized,” said Suarez. No doubt his wife was, too, once she learned of the affair. Was Suarez also “traumatized” when his illicit lover, the murder defendant, took him on his short “vacay” to Vegas? Was he “traumatized” when Patterson handed him $10k to pay off his past-due taxes? Was he “traumatized” when he got paid to do work around the Comfort House previously done for free by volunteers? Free, that is, until Patterson ran them off after invoking insane new policies, such as: No morning coffee for hospice volunteers (according to court testimony).

This being a column, here is what I think of this capital murder trial thus far as it enters Week 4 with no clear end yet in sight:

This whole thing is a circus act on the part of the murder defendant’s four-man defense team whose modus operandi seems to be: Let’s do our best to confuse the jury by pummeling the jurors with meaningless nonsense. Smoke and mirrors. Nothing more; nothing less. The evidence (testimony and documents) presented thus far seems irrefutable, which is why the defense team’s tactics have been: if we can’t beat down the facts, let’s beat down the witnesses.

That has proven to be the case throughout this trial thus far. When a Texas DPS employee was on the stand to explain how she had catalogued personal receipts, handed to her by a Texas Ranger, after they were found in zip-lock bags inside Patterson’s Comfort House office following her arrest, the question of her bachelor’s degree in history was brought up by Patterson’s defense attorneys. So what? The DPS analyst had years of training in financial analysis and counterterrorism subsequent to college graduation. All she was doing was putting together like-minded receipts – restaurant receipts, money spent on travel, etc. – and then giving her findings to criminal investigators, and yet her bachelor’s degree in history is somehow pertinent to this murder trial?

Why not ask her if collects coupons? Does she reconcile her own bank account?

A man who testified that he worked as a marketer for a Valley hospice alliance testified that he only had one face-to-face meeting with Martin Knell at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance while the ultimate murder victim was still struggling with what to do with his wife – where to move her, etc.

Ultimately, the marketer gave Knell a list of hospices from which to choose and passed the case on to the hospital case manager. Yet, a relatively short time later, the same hospice alliance received a letter allegedly typed by Knell saying that the marketer had visited his house after the hospital visit and had spent hours there talking to him about personal matters, including the state of his finances. The marketer firmly disputed that allegation, and his supervisor later testified that she had conducted an internal investigation and had determined that the marketer had never been to Knell’s home. During the time in question, he was out in the field visiting with multiple potential clients: hospitals, doctors, clinics.

Yet, Patterson’s defense team grilled him until he was over-cooked.

One of the accused murderess’s attorneys continued to hound him: If the hospice marketer had spoken to Knell about his personal finances and visited him at his home, that would have been wrong, yes?

“Yes,” said the marketer, even though no such thing had occurred. He brought to court with him his daily calendar log that showed the names of the people with whom he had visited that completely contradicted the letter of complaint against him allegedly typed by Martin Knell, which arrived in an envelope with no return address.

Knell’s bereavement counselor, who worked for the same Valley hospice alliance, was so concerned about what she saw while visiting with Martin Knell that she later contacted Adult Protective Services as well as her own boss to report possible exploitation of an elderly person, namely, Martin Knell.

While she paid a visit to Knell’s house one day, he was on the phone with Melissa Patterson, screaming, angry, upset, according to her court testimony.

Why was he so angry?

Because according to court testimony, Patterson had take his name off of his stock certificates and instead, placed her own name as the payee on death.

Knell was pacing the floor, said the bereavement counselor, clearly upset, wanting to know how this could have happened.

A short time later, Patterson arrived and informed the bereavement counselor that she couldn’t discuss Knell’s personal financial matters in her presence because it would be a violation of client privilege. She would have to leave even though it was clear that Knell wanted her to stay. Patterson also asked Knell if he was sure he was taking “his medication?”

More online tomorrow: How could Patterson show up with an “Advanced Directive for DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) form the day of Knell’s murder, which she used to stop paramedics who were trying to revive Knell the morning of his murder? Both the lead paramedic and a sheriff’s deputy ruled it valid.

DNRs are referred to as only one type of Advanced (Medical) Directive. They’re not hard to obtain, and they don’t require an attorney to help formalize one. Just fill out the form (can be downloaded from multiple online sources), get it signed and notarized, and voila, and it becomes a valid legal document.

So much more to this story yet to come.

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