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La. nursing home owners indicted in storm deaths

CHALMETTE, La. -- The husband and wife owners of a nursing home near New Orleans were indicted yesterday on charges of negligent homicide and cruelty in the deaths of 35 patients who perished in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Salvador and Mabel Mangano were initially arrested about two weeks after the Aug. 29, 2005, storm, but a grand jury was unable to convene for months because of damage to government buildings and the displacement of residents.

The couple, who remained free on bond yesterday, owned St. Rita's nursing home in St. Bernard Parish, a coastal suburb of New Orleans badly flooded by Katrina.

Lawyers in the case were prevented from commenting by a gag order.

The Manganos were originally arrested on 34 counts of negligent homicide, but the grand jury added a 35th count in its indictment, representing a body that was found later. The grand jury also added the cruelty charges.

The indictment for cruelty alleges the couple ``intentionally or through criminal negligence" mistreated or neglected 64 patients. It is believed to cover both patients who died and those who survived.

More than 30 lawsuits have been filed against the couple by patients injured at the nursing home and the families of people who died there.

In a lawsuit filed last month, the couple sued the government, saying federal, state, and local officials failed to keep residents safe and evacuate vulnerable citizens as the storm approached.

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