D.A. Declines to Prosecute Physician in Wife’s Death
The Los Angeles district attorney’s office has decided not to file murder charges against a San Fernando Valley neurosurgeon arrested on suspicion of killing his wife last year with an overdose of a pain-killing drug, police said Tuesday.
Dr. Stephen M. Levine, 42, was to be released from the West Valley Division Jail, a day after he was arrested by police. Police and the district attorney’s office have been investigating Levine and his older brother, Dr. David Levine, 43, an orthopedic surgeon, for about a year. However, the arrest was made without consulting prosecutors, district attorney’s spokesman Al Albergate said.
Sources close to the investigation said Levine’s arrest was ordered by Deputy Police Chief Dan Sullivan, who heads police operations in the Valley. The sources said Sullivan was unhappy about repeated delays by the prosecutor’s medico-legal unit, which has collaborated with detectives assigned to the case.
Lt. William Gaida said Tuesday that he considered the investigation complete and that some key medical test results were recently obtained, prompting the arrest. He said he also had hoped that the district attorney’s office would file charges and issue an arrest warrant for the older Levine brother, who is reportedly in Arizona and had offered through his attorney to turn himself in, Gaida said.
Stephen Levine’s wife, Myrna, 29, died May 12, 1984, in the couple’s home in Tarzana. Authorities suspected Levine of injecting her with an overdose of the pain-killing drug Demerol.
An affidavit filed in Van Nuys Municipal Court by police last fall alleges that David Levine of Studio City conspired with his brother to cover up Myrna Levine’s death.
Found Dead in Bed
According to the police affidavit, Stephen Levine found his wife dead in bed and called his brother. David Levine arrived and pronounced his sister-in-law dead and wrote a death certificate listing the cause of death as cardiac arrest due to seizure disorder and metabolic electrolyte imbalance, the document said.
Neither brother informed paramedics or police of the death, which came to the attention of authorities the next day, when the dead woman’s sister and brother, Carol and George Gonzalez , brought detectives three empty bottles of Demerol, according to the affidavit.
The document said an autopsy detected a level of Demerol 24 to 48 times the amount that would be present under normal medical use. The coroner’s office also found numerous puncture wounds and other signs of prolonged drug use, the affidavit said.
Police allege that the doctor procured drugs to support his wife’s addiction to Demerol, a narcotic painkiller, by writing prescriptions for a patient by the name of “Robert Kaufman.”
Investigators found that Stephen Levine had written more than 115 prescriptions for Demerol to that name, according to the affidavit, which also stated that the address given for “Robert Kaufman” was a Los Angeles residence found by investigators to have been vacant since March, 1983.
Several pharmacists identified Stephen Levine as the man who picked up the Demerol, the document said.