Pasadena Doctor Indicted in Slaying of Pediatrician
A Pasadena neonatologist has been indicted on a capital murder charge for allegedly strangling a pregnant pediatrician on a secluded mountain road, then dumping her car down a cliff to cover up the crime, officials said Tuesday.
Dr. Kevin Paul Anderson, 40, of La Verne could face the death penalty if convicted of the Nov. 11 murder of Deepta Gupta, a colleague at Pasadena’s Huntington Memorial Hospital. The charge includes the special circumstance of lying in wait and a sentencing enhancement of “personally inflicting injury” on the embryo that Gupta was carrying, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Authorities said Anderson admitted strangling the pediatrician during an argument over a business deal. They said an eyewitness saw Anderson push Gupta’s vehicle off Angeles Crest Highway several miles north of La Canada Flintridge.
Sources said Tuesday that, according to Anderson, the argument was over a patient list that the two doctors had intended to use to open a practice together.
Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said a decision on whether to seek the death penalty will be made in the next few weeks.
“This was a premeditated murder,” Gibbons said. “At the very minimum, he is looking at a life sentence.”
Anderson has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, which was handed down by the Los Angeles County Grand Jury last week.
Michael E. Abzug, Anderson’s attorney, said Tuesday that his client “never confessed to the charges” during a two-hour statement that he made to sheriff’s homicide detectives immediately after the slaying.
Abzug disclosed Tuesday that a portion of Anderson’s statement is missing from the tape recording of the police interview, apparently because of a problem with the recording device.
If a judge finds that the tape was deliberately tampered with, the remainder of Anderson’s recorded statements could be thrown out, Abzug said.
At the very least, he said, “jurors will discover, in an important case, this important piece of evidence wasn’t preserved.”
Authorities acknowledged the gap in the tape recording but declined to comment further on its implications for the case.
Prosecutors allege that Anderson lured Gupta, 33, the mother of a 2-year-old, to the remote mountain road on a November evening with the intent to take her life. Anderson persuaded Gupta, a fellow “stargazer,” to join him so they could look at the constellations, law enforcement sources said.
The two then argued, allegedly leading Anderson to strangle her with his hands, prosecutors charge. Then, he allegedly poured a large can of gasoline into Gupta’s car and shoved it off the cliff, hoping to make it look as if she died in a traffic accident.
Gupta’s husband, UCLA mechanical engineering professor Vijay Gupta, has told reporters that his wife informed him days before her death that she was expecting a child. He said the couple had been trying to have a second child for some time.
He said that his wife and Anderson, who had known each other for about a year, had abandoned their effort to open a joint medical practice six weeks before her death.
In court documents filed previously, Abzug alleged that Deepta Gupta had threatened Anderson’s wife and child before the slaying.
Anderson has been ordered to submit to DNA testing as part of the case, court documents show. Also, prosecutors have directed the Los Angeles County coroner’s office not to reveal details of Gupta’s pregnancy or death beyond that she was strangled, said coroner’s spokesman Scott Carrier.
Anderson, who also was head of pediatrics at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Pasadena, has been ordered by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler to be held without bail pending a preliminary hearing in Pasadena Superior Court on Jan. 27.
Although Anderson faces serious charges, Abzug said that several doctors have written letters of support to the courts. One doctor said he was willing to let Anderson work at his practice while he awaits trial, Abzug said.
“He is a highly respected doctor. . . . Colleagues, patients and neighbors are supporting him,” Abzug said. “This is really a tragic case all-way round.”