There is enough evidence for the accused killer of a prominent Newport Beach doctor to stand trial on murder charges next month, an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday.
Stanwood Elkus, 76, is facing a special-circumstances murder charge with a sentencing enhancement for the use of a firearm. The retired barber from Lake Elsinore allegedly used a fake name to make an appointment with Dr. Ronald Gilbert at the doctor's Hoag Hospital-affiliated office and shot the doctor to death on Jan. 28, 2013.
At a hearing to determine whether the case could proceed, Newport Beach police Det. Kyle Cammack explained how investigators believe the shooting unfolded, starting with a nurse leading Elkus to an examination room in a medical building off Superior Avenue in Newport Beach.
Once in an exam room, Elkus removed three coats and a satchel so the nurse could take his blood pressure, Cammack said.
A short time later, the nurse said, she heard loud bangs, prompting her to return to the room and ask what was wrong.
That’s when Elkus opened the door holding a .45-caliber handgun and said, “Call the police; I’m insane -- call the police,” according to Cammack.
Inside, the nurse and another doctor saw Gilbert’s bloodied body and shell casings littering the floor, according to Cammack and Newport Beach police Sgt. Brad Miller.
They say Elkus then handed over the pistol and waited for authorities to arrive.
After hearing the evidence, Anderson denied a request from Elkus’ lawyer to reduce the charge to second-degree murder.
The killing was not planned, Elkus’ lawyer, Colleen O’Hara, argued.
O’Hara produced documentation indicating that Elkus had scheduled an appointment with his psychiatrist for Jan. 30 -- two days after the slaying.
Elkus had also taken a folder of medical records with him to Gilbert’s office on the day of the shooting.
“Presumably he had some intention of going over them with Dr. Gilbert,” she said.
Anderson said that fact could become relevant during the trial, but that “it’s not really important at this point.”
Elkus’ psychiatric appointment also did not convince the judge that it negated premeditation.
“It could be a ploy,” she said. “It could be any reason.”
In a jailhouse interview last year with the Daily Pilot, Elkus said he was angry about the after-effects of a prostate surgery he said Gilbert had performed on him at an unspecified Veterans Affairs hospital two decades ago.
A lawyer for the Gilbert family said that the urologist did work at the VA hospital during that period but that it was another doctor who performed the surgery.
Elkus is scheduled to be arraigned next month before his trial, but at that point he may have to find a new lawyer.
O’Hara told Anderson that she may have to withdraw as Elkus’ retained attorney because he no longer has the means to pay for his defense.
In a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Gilbert’s wife and two sons, a civil court judge essentially stripped Elkus of all assets to compensate the family.
Dobruck writes for Times Community News.