Randallstown couple had won $1 million-plus malpractice suit over wife's 1981 spine surgery Man killed his wife, turned gun on himself

February 28, 1996|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

A Randallstown man who fatally shot his invalid wife and then himself should not have been worried about money: He had collected more than $1 million 10 years ago after he and his wife sued the doctors who had treated pinched nerves in her spine.

In January 1986, Samuel and Lucille Johnson won the money in an out-of-court settlement against Drs. Jorge R. Ordonez and Magdi H. G. Henein, who operated on Mrs. Johnson's spine after she complained of difficulty walking, said Marvin Ellin, the couple's attorney. "The exact amount of money they received is confidential," he said. "But I can tell you it is well in excess of $1 million."

Although Mrs. Johnson, 65, did have trouble walking, she was not paralyzed June 1, 1981, when the doctors operated on her, according to court records. Mrs. Johnson's suit against the doctors claimed that they did not perform the surgery correctly and, as a result, they damaged her spinal cord just beneath her skull.

Twenty-four hours after the operation, her voice was slurred, her right side was completely paralyzed and she lost control of her bladder, the records say. Although she was operated on two more times and received therapy, her condition did not improve, the suit said.

In 1982, when Mrs. Johnson began getting therapy at Good Samaritan Hospital, the couple's attitude seemed to be positive and philosophical about the injuries, Mr. Ellin said.

Since then, Mrs. Johnson was confined to a wheelchair during the day and was bedridden at night. She could not turn herself over or take care of any of her personal needs, her lawyer said. Mr. Johnson had a stroke about nine months ago that left him paralyzed on his right side.

Mr. Ellin, who filed the couple's wills in Baltimore County Circuit Court yesterday, said he was sure the couple did not spend all of the money. He said they had invested it and were living off those returns. The couple's relatives and two friends are named in the wills, he said.

According to police, Mr. Johnson, 74, shot his wife with a .22-caliber rifle and then himself Monday morning. A live-in nurse, who said she was sleeping and did not hear any shots, found the bodies when she woke up shortly after 3 a.m. to check on the couple.

Louise Hancock, 66, a longtime friend of the couple, said she had talked to the Johnsons on Friday and they seemed "just fine."

Although the couple had no children, Mr. Johnson had five children from a previous marriage, Mr. Ellin said.

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