The Vengeful Heart
In mid-1996, the Baylor researchers finally reached their conclusion: The genetic material from Donald McClelland and Janice Trahan were closely related. At trial, another expert, Prof. David Hillis of the University of Texas Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, would call the two viral strains as closely related as sequences from two individuals could be.
On Tuesday, July 23, 1996, a Lafayette grand jury formally charged Dr. Schmidt with seconddegree attempted murder. Janice Trahan was not specifically identified in the indictment. Reporters wouldnt learn her name until a judge unsealed Trahans civil suit.
Still, the media had no luck reaching her for comment. She is a victim and she is fighting her battle for survival, Trahans attorney, James R. Leonard, declared in a written statement. She is not interested in publicity, and only hopes for a fair and speedy trial.
Public reaction to the indictment was mixed. In the medical community, Dr. Schmidts colleagues, most of whom were well aware of the affair for years, tended to side with the doctor. Nurses, however, rallied to Trahan. Dr. Schmidt was not popular among them. Some were openly derisive about Dr. Schmidts comb-over haircut. Others used creep to describe Schmidt to reporters.
There certainly was no consensus about the doctors guilt or innocence around the city of Lafayette. People dont know which side to believe, Jim Bradshaw, the metropolitan editor for the Lafayette Daily Advertiser told Russell Miller, a British writer. I think everybody is just leaning back and thinking, My God, what is the world coming to now?
The doctor said nothing while he remained in jail. But the week following his Friday, July 26, 1996, bond hearing, where Schmidt posted $500,000 and was released, he took out an ad in the Advertiser.
Under the headline A NOTE OF THANKS, Dr. Schmidt thanked all of the patients and friends that (sic) have called or written to voice their support over the past week. He described the charges against him as totally untrue, and denounced unspecified statements made to the media as untrue or distortions of the truth, made in an obvious attempt to discredit me which is both irresponsible and unconscionable.
He concluded, Rather than being critical of my attackers, I wish that you would pray for them and forgive them. The path of forgiveness is not the easy way, but it is the right way. We will however continue to fight this injustice with all means possible.
Richard J. Schmidt, MD
His public indignation and high-mindedness notwithstanding, Dr. Schmidt did have some explaining to do. Capt. Crafts surveillance over the past year turned up a new love interest in his life, his nurse Alice Bryan. Long before the relationship was discussed at trial, Ms. Bryan moved to Pennsylvania.
Schmidts attorneys also raised the fact that Donald McClelland did not suffer from hepatitis C, seemingly undercutting the possibility that McClelland was the source of Janice Trahans AIDS infection. In response, Capt. Craft reexamined the spiral notebook hed recovered from the storage room, and saw that on August 2 a second patients name was entered without an accession sticker. The only notation was Purple Top for Dr.
Her name was Leslie Louviere. She told Craft that Dr. Schmidt had treated her for hepatitis C. For insurance reasons, Louviere went on, her blood always was drawn at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Hospital. However, she remembered that on August 2, 1994, a blood sample had been drawn at Dr. Schmidts office. Louviere remembered that the doctor explained he needed the specimen for a research project.