Ex-doctor admits to killing gymnast

Columbus, Ohio - A former doctor convicted of killing three patients in New York admitted on Wednesday to killing a woman while he was an intern at a hospital in Ohio 16 years ago.

Michael J Swango, 45, pleaded guilty in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to aggravated murder in the death of Cynthia Ann McGee, a 19-year-old gymnast who was recovering from a car accident.

Swango admitted to injecting McGee with a deadly dose of potassium at Ohio State University hospital.

He agreed to be returned to Columbus to answer to the aggravated murder charge last month after he pleaded guilty in US District Court in New York to the three 1993 New York murders at a veteranÆs hospital.

Judge Lisa Sadler gave Swango the maximum penalty on the aggravated murder charge - life in prison with the chance of parole after 20 years - the most severe penalty in 1984, when McGee died.

Swango made no statement and stood looking at the judge with his chin slightly raised when she imposed sentence.

Swango already has been sentenced to life without parole for the three New York murders in a plea bargain that spared him the possibility of the death penalty. He will be sent to a maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado.

Prosecutors say they needed SwangoÆs admission to charge him in Ohio because they had only circumstantial evidence - a nurseÆs account that she had seen him entering McGeeÆs hospital room with a syringe just before the patient lapsed into a coma and died.

McGee, of Dublin, Ohio was recuperating from an accident that occurred two months earlier in Illinois, where she was attending the University of Illinois and was on the gymnastics team.

After her death, Scott Bone, the 17-year-old driver of the car that struck her bicycle, was convicted of reckless homicide and sentenced to 30 monthÆ probation and 1 000 hours of community service. Bone and his family have refused comment on the Swango case.

Authorities considered suspicious the deaths of at least six patients, including McGeeÆs, while Swango was at Ohio State during the 1983-1984 school year. Ohio State barred him from returning for a second year.

He then secured jobs in other hospitals, including the VeteransÆ facility, by lying.

Swango also is suspected of poisoning patients in Zimbabwe and served time in prison for the nonfatal poisoning of co-workers in Illinois.

A book about him, Blind Eye: The Story of a Doctor who Got Away with Murder, suggests that Swango might have killed up to 35 patients as he moved from hospital to hospital, lying about his background.

Zimbabwe has agreed not to press charges.

Prosecutors allege Swango also poisoned Ohio State University patient Rena Cooper, who survived but was paralysed. Prosecutors canÆt pursue assault charges because too much time has passed under Ohio law.

Federal prosecutors charged Swango with the New York killings days before he was to be released from prison after completing a 42-month prison sentence for lying on an application for a residency at Stony Brook University Medical Centre in New York.

He admitted failing to disclose that he had spent 30 months in jail and lost his medical licence in 1985 for poisoning six co-workers in Quincy, Illinois.

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