Nursing Home Owners Indicted with Negligent Homicide, Cruelty

CHALMETTE, La. (AP) _ The owners of a nursing home where 35 patients died when Hurricane Katrina hit southeastern Louisiana were indicted today on charges of negligent homicide and cruelty to the infirm.

A St. Bernard Parish grand jury, convened this morning, took about four hours to return the indictment against Salvador and Mabel Mangano. The couple was arrested about two weeks after the August 29, 2005, storm. Their nursing home, St. Rita's, is in the rural St. Bernard Parish community of Poydras.

The Manganos' arrest represented the first major criminal prosecution arising from Katrina, which flooded 80 percent of New Orleans and virtually wiped out neighboring St. Bernard parish. The Louisiana death toll was nearly 1,600.

Attorneys in the case were prevented from commenting by retired Judge Jerome Winsberg, who maintained a gag order. Winsberg took the case on loan from New Orleans after parish prosecutors and judges recused themselves in the case.

The Manganos are free on bond. A formal arraignment on the 64 counts of cruelty to the infirm -- which were added by the grand jury today -- will be held October 4.

The deaths at St. Rita's came after a wall of floodwater driven by Katrina swamped the facility.