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Nurse may be charged in 2 more deaths

Brian K. Rosenfeld, already charged with murdering one of his nursing home patients, likely will be indicted in the deaths of two other elderly people, his attorney says.

Defense attorney Larry Hoffman said Thursday that prosecutors have told him they will present evidence to a Pinellas County grand jury that Rosenfeld killed two other patients. That could happen as early as March, the defense attorney said.

Hoffman said he learned prosecutors were seeking the additional indictments against Rosenfeld after he approached them recently to discuss a plea agreement. He said Pinellas-Pasco Assistant State Attorney Fred Schaub told him that prosecutors thought they had enough evidence to convince a grand jury that Rosenfeld is responsible for more deaths.

Schaub did not deny Hoffman's statements but would comment only briefly.

"It hasn't been finalized over here yet," the prosecutor said. "There's a grand jury set in March and no final decisions have been made. It's a continuing investigation and we can't comment."

Rosenfeld, a 34-year-old nurse, was charged with first-degree murder in August 1990 after two nurse's aides at Rosedale Manor nursing home near St. Petersburg said he injected a suspicious fluid into the feeding tube of 80-year-old patient Muriel Watts. An autopsy revealed that she had died from a massive dose of the tranquilizer Mellaril.

Her death sparked an investigation that expanded after a Pinellas County Jail inmate heard Rosenfeld say he had killed as many as 23 patients.

Schaub would not name the two additional patients that prosecutors think Rosenfeld killed.

But prosecutors earlier said that the suspicious deaths of Alphonse Costa Silva and another patient could be used to strengthen their murder case against Rosenfeld. His trial is scheduled for April.

Like Mrs. Watts, Silva, 76, was a patient at Rosedale when he died in 1990. Another patient, Hazel Baker DeRemer, 81, died in 1987 at the Sunshine Village nursing home in Pinellas Park, where Rosenfeld worked at the time. Test results on their exhumed bodies show that they contained large doses of Mellaril.

Silva's wife, Susan, recently filed a lawsuit blaming Rosenfeld and the nursing home for her husband's death. Attorneys for Mrs. Watts' estate filed a similar lawsuit last year.

Hoffman said that if Rosenfeld is indicted in their deaths, he will immediately try to work out a deal with prosecutors. He said he wants them to consider giving Rosenfeld three concurrent life sentences in exchange for a guilty plea.

"If he's indicted . . . I'm going to have him in court as quick as possible," Hoffman said. "I don't see any reason to delay it any longer."