A 79-year-old Lake Elsinore man who gunned down a Newport Beach physician he blamed for a routine surgical procedure performed decades ago that he claimed left him impotent and incontinent was found Monday to have been sane at the time of the killing.
The jury’s decision, reached after about an hour of deliberations, means Stanwood Fred Elkus will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. If jurors had found him insane, Elkus would have been sent to a psychiatric facility indefinitely.
Elkus was convicted Aug. 21 of first-degree murder for killing Dr. Ronald Gilbert on Jan. 29, 2013. Jurors also found true a sentencing enhancement allegation of personal use of a gun and a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait. Because Elkus had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, a second phase of trial was held for jurors to determine if he was sane at the time of the killing.
Elkus told Orange County Superior Court Judge Patrick Donahue on Monday that he wanted to fire his attorney, Colleen O’Hara, and wanted a new lawyer appointed so he can file a motion for a new trial. When Donahue informed him that process would likely take several months, Elkus said he would rather be sentenced to prison, so his sentencing date was set for Sept. 15.
“I’m not getting any younger and I’m not getting healthier,” Elkus said.
When Elkus asked if he could be sentenced to prison and be brought back for a hearing on a motion for a new trial, Donahue said the law forbids that.
“I’d rather go to prison” rather than wait months for a new trial motion to be filed, Elkus said.
“I’ve taken (O’Hara’s) advice for 4 1/2 years and I’ve been disappointed,” Elkus said.
Gilbert’s brother, Glenn Gilbert, said he was “just glad it’s over.”
In a written statement, Glenn Gilbert, said his brother was a “benevolent, brilliant, talented, hilarious, loving, pillar of society who enriched the lives of countless people. He was a caring and respected doctor who made advances in medicine that are still helping people today.”
In 1992, when he was 54, Elkus — a barber — made appointments with multiple doctors, complaining of urinary problems, Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy said during the trial. One of the doctors he consulted with was Gilbert, who was a young resident at the time, he said.
Elkus was diagnosed with urethral stricture, a narrowing of the urinary tract, so doctors recommended a routine surgical procedure to correct it, Murphy said. Part of the procedure involved the placement of a catheter so the urethra could heal around it. Elkus, however became so “fixated on the idea he may die” during the procedure that a social worker was assigned to talk to him, the prosecutor said.
The surgical procedure went “smoothly,” but Elkus refused to leave the hospital and threatened to pull the catheter out if he was forced to go, Murphy said. He finally agreed to leave on Sept. 3, 1992, but returned days later to demand the catheter be removed even though he was told it must stay in place for two weeks.
The doctors finally complied with his request, but it led to Elkus “blaming all of his problems on this procedure” for decades afterward, Murphy said. Though Gilbert wasn’t one of the doctors who performed the surgery, he was listed as the doctor responsible for the patient on hospital forms, the prosecutor said.
The defendant went to doctor after doctor, complaining about how the procedure ruined his sex life, and also wrote letters to doctors saying he wished they would die, the prosecutor alleged.
In 2010, Elkus “begins making plans,” Murphy said, telling jurors the defendant created a living trust to benefit his sister should he die, become incapacitated or “becomes incarcerated.”
In December 2012, he bought a gun, and the next month he went to Gilbert’s office and was told he had to make an appointment, so he filled out forms using a fake name of Allen Gold and included other false identifying information, Murphy said.
On the day he returned, he was ushered into an examination room to await the doctor. When Gilbert walked into the room, Elkus “pulled out the gun and proceeded to shoot him 10 times,” continuing to fire even when the physician was on the floor, Murphy said.
When other doctors and employees burst into the room, Elkus said, “I’m insane. Call the police,” according to the prosecutor.
O’Hara argued that her client’s brain has significantly deteriorated to the point that he is at one percentile of the cognition of others his age In a hearing in January of this year, Elkus told the judge presiding over his case that he has a brain tumor.
“His mental health issues started when he was young,” O’Hara said, telling the jury her client had polio when he was 7 and was not the same afterward.
The surgical procedure in 1992 was the “final trigger … into his eventual descent into madness,” O’Hara said.
Elkus was doing fine until the surgical procedure in 1992, and he felt the doctors “pushed” him into doing it, she said. Later, he visited multiple physicians over the years who told him his prostate was damaged in the “botched” surgery and that it was unnecessary, O’Hara said.
–City News Service
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