Murder in the Intensive Care Unit
The Investigation Begins
At ADA Kevin McKeon's desk on that September day, Merola impressed on his subordinate that this was a sensitive case he wanted him to personally take charge of and that he was to drop everything else he was working on. Merola stressed that he didn't want the newspapers getting wind of the investigation. He even cautioned McKeon not to talk about it with his colleagues in a bar after work for fear of them being overheard by the "wrong people."
Merola, according to McKeon, told the ADA that the Albert Einstein Medical Center administrator had contacted the DA's office to report a series of incidents in which patients had mysteriously died in the ICU ward after brain surgery They had all had bleeding in the brain; all had been administered heparin. Merola told McKeon he would have a large office for him and his investigative team across the Grand Concourse in the new Bronx County Courthouse.
The Bronx's Einstein Medical was a respected teaching hospital in the borough, affiliated with Yeshiva University, one of the preeminent Jewish institutions of higher learning in the country, if not the world. Reputations and community pride were at stake. McKeon didn't have to be told of that vast sums of money were at stake if the medical center was deemed to be liable.
There was more. President Jimmy Carter's grim 1977 assessment of the poverty-scarred South Bronx, calling it "the worst slum in America," was still fresh in the public's consciousness. And few will forget ABC Sports' Howard Cosell intoning"the Bronx is burning," as an abandoned building burned out of control near Yankee Stadium during Game Two of the 1977 World Series. The Bronx did not need any more bad publicity. The voting public would not stand for it, and Merola, the borough's front line defender, wouldn't either. That was clear to Kevin McKeon.
The young attorney knew Merola picked him to head the investigation out of the 300 ADAs in the office because he had a reputation in the office of being a hard worker who really enjoyed work that required a lot of digging. He was also someone who could keep his mouth shut. Merola's trust in him was something he was determined not to betray. McKeon didn't even tell his wife about the case.