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Son Accused of Killing Actress Says He Is Victim of Medical Experiment

January 07, 1988|LYNN STEINBERG | Times Staff Writer

An Encino man accused of murdering his mother, actress Susan Cabot, has filed a lawsuit seeking protection for himself and thousands of others he says are victims of a failed medical experiment.

In the class-action suit filed in U. S. District Court, Timothy Scott Roman, 23, says he was one of 10,000 children who received injections of growth hormones taken from cadavers as a treatment for dwarfism from 1963 to 1985.

The 70-page complaint, filed Dec. 31, asks the court to declare the 10,000 hormone recipients, including Roman, "developmentally disabled" if they want to be labeled as such. The court ruling would entitle them to free medical care, education and disability payments from the federal government.

Roman's attorney, Chester Leo Smith, said the ruling also would force prosecutors to drop first-degree murder charges against his client because the full effect of the hormones might not be determined for years. Therefore, proceeding with the case would deny Roman a fair trial and violate his constitutional right to due process, Smith said.

Furthermore, Smith said in referring to the suit, it is impossible to prove that Roman intended to kill his mother.

"Which mind are you dealing with--the mind at birth, the mind bathed for decades in powerful chemicals, the mind with the genetic material of scores of thousands of cadavers, the mind being attacked by old pathogens, mutated pathogens, new pathogens?" the lawsuit asks.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Bradford E. Stone noted that Roman was a student at Pierce College at the time of his arrest in December, 1986. Stone said his ability to pass college classes indicates that he has the mental capacity to plan a crime.

If the court grants the requests in the lawsuit, Stone said he will ask the U.S. attorney's office to appeal.

"We wouldn't calmly sit back and go, 'Ho, hum, there goes another murder,' " Stone said. "The charges are too serious."

Roman was arrested after his 59-year-old mother, a leading lady in B movies in the 1950s, was clubbed to death with a weight-lifting bar as she lay face down across her bed.

Roman pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity at his arraignment in February, 1987. At the time of his arrest he denied involvement in the slaying, blaming it on a Latino burglar wearing a Ninja warrior mask. But prosecutors said they have strong circumstantial evidence that points to Roman as the killer.

Roman, who lived in his mother's Encino home, has been held without bail in Los Angeles County Jail since his arrest.

The lawsuit states that he was born with brain damage, which later was aggravated by growth hormones injected into his legs twice a week from 1970 through 1985.

From 6,000 to 7,000 children received the hormones as part of an experimental program administered by the National Institutes of Health, spokeswoman Charlotte Armstrong said. Distribution was halted in 1985 after some patients developed a fatal neurological disorder.

Five hormone recipients died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which causes a degeneration of the central nervous system, Armstrong said. Its symptoms include loss of coordination and memory, slurred speech and confusion, she said.

Roman contends in the lawsuit that his mother had a mental breakdown in 1985 after learning about the effects of the hormones. He also claims that his mother tried to kill him on Dec. 10, 1986, the day she was found beaten to death.

Seventeen defendants are listed in the lawsuit, including the NIH, Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner, the state of California and each state in which the other patients are said to reside.

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