Woman sentenced in syringe attack

Laurel nurse tried to kill ex-husband with drug

August 10, 2005|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A Laurel nurse was sentenced yesterday to 15 years in prison for trying to kill her ex-husband by stabbing him in the buttock with a syringe containing a drug so potent it is used in the execution of convicted murderers -- and so easily absorbed that its presence usually goes undetected.

Donald Hoard, a hospital records coordinator from Greenbelt, had gone to his ex-wife's house in March 2004 to pick up their son when Ann Hoard attacked him with the syringe and said, "I want my son back," an Anne Arundel County prosecutor said.

The syringe fell, and Donald Hoard retrieved it after a scuffle, running to his truck and calling 911. But he went back inside, worried about his son. From the second floor, Ann Hoard told him to come upstairs, where she stabbed him twice in the leg with a different, empty syringe. The boy was at her sister's nearby home.

Donald Hoard, 49, had won custody of the boy after a bitter court fight, and Ann Hoard had asked the court at least five times to reconsider the order. She was upset at the possibility of having to pay him $35,000 in addition to child support, the prosecutor said.

Yesterday, an Anne Arundel County judge said that had she struck a vein with the syringe, Donald Hoard might be dead and their 7-year-old son fatherless.

"It was simply a question of her winning without any regard to the consequences for this child," Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Paul F. Harris Jr. said as he sentenced Hoard, 44, for what he called a calculated but botched effort to dispatch Donald Hoard so she could have the child to herself.

The case represents the most recent involving succinylcholine chloride, a drug long associated with murderous plots.

Among them, in 1967, anesthesiologist Dr. Carl Coppolino was convicted in Florida of second-degree murder for injecting it into his wife. In 1999, surgical technician Kimberly Hricko of Laurel was convicted of killing her husband during a Valentine's Day weekend at an Eastern Shore resort where the couple had watched a murder mystery dinner performance. And "Angel of Death" Efren Saldivar admitted in 2002 that it was among the drugs he used to kill perhaps 50 patients during his tenure as a respiratory therapist at a California hospital.

It is also the second drug in the triple-drug cocktail injected to execute convicted murderers.

The drug breaks down in the body so fast that typically its presence goes undetected, Assistant State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess said. Had Donald Hoard, who had suffered a heart attack in 2001, died before calling 911, his death might have been attributed to natural causes unless a tiny needle puncture was found.

But in this case, the drug didn't land in a vein, and the victim saved the needle. That enabled police chemist Robert J. Llano to find traces of the drug in the syringe, turning an assault case into one of attempted murder.

Hoard's labored breathing and numbness while talking to police might have been due to the drug; it is commonly used in hospitals to temporarily paralyze a patient so that physicians can insert a breathing tube into the trachea, Leitess said.

"I should have known better than to walk into the house," Donald Hoard told the judge, as he spoke of problems he has coped with since the March 29, 2004, incident.

Donald Hoard testified that he still feared his ex-wife and her family.

Her mother and sister, however, described Ann Hoard as a devoted mother and said his fears of them were imaginary.

Leitess asked for at least 15 years in prison so the child could grow up away from his mother, and defense lawyer Warren A. Brown sought house arrest so the child would not be deprived of his mother.

Ann Hoard testified that she was the victim. She said her ex-husband, who is white, attacked her and that as a black woman she suffered at the hands of police and the courts. Harris sentenced Hoard to 25 years but suspended 10 and added five years of supervised probation.

Where she got the drug remains is unclear, though as a critical-care nurse, she had access to it while working at nine Washington-area hospitals, Leitess said.

Brown said he will appeal.

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