Clues Sought to Mystery Heart Ailment Fatal to 6 in Family

Associated Press

Doctors are searching for answers to a mysterious heart ailment that has killed six members of a local family who were young and appeared to be in good health.

The first to die was Francisco Martinez Santos, a 34-year-old father of seven stricken by a heart attack in his Milpitas home in 1960, four days after a physical exam found him to be in excellent health.

In 1981, his 27-year-old daughter, Doris, died in her sleep.

Three years later, son Ronnie, 24, collapsed and died while playing softball.

Less than a year after that another son, Franklin, collapsed and died while watching television. He was 33.

A third son, 30-year-old Ralph, died while lying on a sofa.

The latest death was Nov. 15, when grandson Franklin Santos Jr. collapsed and died at a high school homecoming dance in Santa Clara.


Autopsy results were pending, but the family says the death appears all too familiar. Doctors suspect the deaths are linked by an abnormality in the family’s genetic code. But they need to find out more before they can do something to prevent another death.

“It’s really a grim situation,” said Victor McKusick, a professor of medical genetics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.