YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

D.A.'s Case Rests on These Brief Flickers of Existence

June 14, 1987|ANDREW C. REVKIN | Times Staff Writer

Tucked into a file in the Los Angeles Municipal Court are photocopies of some snapshots that bear witness to a happy event--the birth of Jason Friel on Aug. 30, 1984. They begin with his delivery in the Valencia clinic of Dr. Milos Klvana and end with the smiling parents, Deborah and Edward Friel, getting into their car with the baby. But, early the next morning, Debbie Friel awoke to find Jason had stopped breathing.

His death led to an investigation by law-enforcement agencies that led to five second-degree murder charges and other criminal complaints against Klvana. An assistant, Delores Doyle, is charged in two of those five deaths.

According to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, Jason was one of nine babies (including one fetus) to die under Klvana's care between December, 1982, and September, 1986. The district attorney announced last week he plans to file charges in connection with the other four deaths at the start of the preliminary hearing Wednesday.

The stories of the five original cases, like the snapshots of Jason Friel's birth, are contained in the voluminous court file that represents much of the state's case against Klvana and Doyle.

Amanda Herrera

Born to Julie James and Rudolfo Herrera on Oct. 12, 1983, in Klvana's Valencia clinic, Amanda Herrera died shortly after birth. In interviews with investigators and in sworn testimony from a subsequent lawsuit, James said she first went into labor Oct. 10, but that her contractions became sporadic. Early on Oct. 12, she went to Klvana's clinic, where he administered an intravenous drug to speed labor.

"I could feel her kicking me a couple of minutes before delivery," James told prosecutor Brian R. Kelberg in an interview at her Canyon Country home, a transcript of which was in the court file. After delivery, she said, Klvana told her that the baby's heart was beating but that she was not breathing.

The baby died 20 minutes after her birth in Klvana's clinic, James told a state Board of Medical Quality Assurance investigator. James told the investigator that Klvana "wanted to know what we wanted to do with the baby. He said we had a choice. We could leave it here or we could pay. He said, don't pay for an autopsy because those suckers would charge about $1,500."

Court records did not indicate if there was an autopsy or what became of the body. James and Herrera won more than $1 million in a civil suit against Klvana, but could not collect because Klvana has no money or insurance.

Baby Ginsberg

A mature fetus was delivered stillborn Jan. 17, 1984, to David and Mira Ginsberg, who lived at the time in Simi Valley. In testimony before a Los Angeles County grand jury last August, Mira Ginsberg said they chose Klvana as their doctor in the belief that "children born at home make happier individuals."

In 1982, a midwife employed by Klvana had delivered a baby for the Ginsbergs at their home. The midwife consulted with Klvana by telephone several times when the baby had trouble breathing, but Klvana did not recommend that the baby be taken to the hospital, according to the Ginsbergs' grand jury testimony.

Two hours after its birth, that baby died of respiratory failure. Yet, harboring "no animosity or dissatisfaction," the couple went back to Klvana when the mother became pregnant six months after their first baby's death.

This time, Mira Ginsberg felt something was wrong. On Jan. 16, she noted that the baby had stopped kicking. Klvana gave her a checkup and detected no fetal heartbeat. "Well, he was reassuring, and he just said, 'Sometimes this happens,' " she told the grand jury. She said he told her to go home, rest, and come to the office the next morning for a checkup.

The next day, she went into labor in the office and gave birth to a dead fetus. Klvana's comment was that "it defied logic," she said. As for the remains of the fetus, she said, "He just said that he would take care of it."

Klvana allegedly made only one reference to the death in his medical records--in a bill for a three-week postpartum examination. Neither the delivery itself nor any previous visits were ever recorded, according to insurance company records included in the court file. The remains of the fetus were never found, Kelberg said in an interview.

Aaron Diederick

Aaron Diederick was born on Jan. 30, 1984, at Klvana's Temple City clinic and died on Feb. 7. His parents, Lana and Brian Diederick, both Jehovah's Witnesses, had originally arranged with Doyle, who is also a member of that church, to deliver the baby at their Garden Grove home, they told Kelberg in an interview that is part of the court file.

But, because of complications and prolonged labor, they moved to the clinic. "I labored for hours and begged for a Caesarean, but Delores told me it would kill the baby, so we all listened to her," Lana Diederick said in that interview.

She added that Klvana arrived at the clinic an hour after she and her husband did.

Los Angeles Times Articles