A former nurse at St. John's Regional Medical Center was arrested on suspicion of molesting patients while they were sedated, Oxnard police said Wednesday.
Gorden Butikofer, 37, was taken into custody at Los Angeles International Airport about 11:15 p.m. Tuesday, after an investigation by Oxnard police linked him to at least three instances of sexual battery of male patients at the hospital, police said.
Butikofer, 37, worked as a registered nurse at the hospital between January, 1993, and May of this year, police said. He is accused of fondling three Ventura County men, all in their late 20s, during his employment.
Two of the victims were brought to the hospital by ambulance after suffering injuries in traffic collisions, Oxnard Police Detective Bruce Reed said.
Butikofer quit his job sometime in May to move to Utah, but the attacks went unreported to authorities for months, police said.
"Apparently the victims were reluctant to say anything," Reed said.
Oxnard police arrested Butikofer after interviewing the victims and tracking him down in Utah through a forwarding address he left with St. John's officials, Reed said. But the detective declined to say how investigators determined that Butikofer would be at the airport Tuesday night.
Hospital Administrator Daniel Herlinger said he was alerted sometime last year, while Butikofer was still employed at St. John's, that a patient had accused the nurse of sexual assault. But no disciplinary action was taken against Butikofer because the patient failed to cooperate in the hospital's internal investigation, Herlinger said.
"There was one complaint" at that time, Herlinger said. "But there was no substantiation by the patient."
Herlinger said the two most recent alleged victims were injured in a traffic accident earlier this year.
"There were two people that came in at the same time, and when they got the bill, or several months after they were there, they made a complaint (against Butikofer)," Herlinger said. "But when we started to investigate . . . he had already quit."
The hospital contacted police immediately following those allegations, Herlinger said.
Another St. John's employee faced criminal charges involving hospital patients earlier this year.
Michelle Peralta of Oxnard, an emergency room clerk, was arrested on suspicion of stealing credit cards from sick and injured patients, then buying more than $10,000 in clothes at upscale department stores.
Peralta was fired from her job and later sentenced to 90 days in Ventura County Jail and four years probation after pleading guilty to four counts of theft.
Butikofer remains in county jail in lieu of $25,000 bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned today in Ventura County Municipal Court.