Medical examiner's findings differ from police report in ex-cop murder case


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ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Medical Examiner's Office has not yet determined a cause in the death of Jeanette Magras-Saldana, though the examiner did find inconsistencies in what was reported in a V.I. Police affidavit during Enrique Saldana's initial court appearance.

V.I. Medical Examiner Francisco Landron said he is waiting for toxicology report results before determining what killed 43-year-old Magras-Saldana.

Enrique Saldana, a former V.I. Police captain, is facing murder charges in V.I. Superior Court in connection with his wife's death. On May 2, police arrested Saldana, who had been released from federal prison in February after serving a sentence for corruption.

Saldana, 51, called 911 dispatchers at 8:30 a.m. May 2 asking for a police escort to Schneider Hospital, where he transported the body of his wife.

Detective Jose Allen was assigned to investigate the "suspicious death," according to the affidavit that Allen filled out the same evening.

"Medical personnel examined the female and discovered that she had sustained significant black and blue bruises," Allen wrote, thereafter describing each of the areas that were bruised. "Her jaw appeared to be dislocated and her trachea appeared to be crushed."

Additionally, Allen wrote that "an attempt to intubate her failed as her trachea was too swollen and damaged to allow the tube to enter."

Magras-Saldana's trachea, or windpipe, was not crushed, according to Landron, who said he has completed the autopsy of Magras-Saldana.

Landron said he has not reviewed Allen's affidavit, though he noted media reports that described Magras-Saldana as having had a crushed windpipe, based on the police affidavit.

Landron confirmed that Magras-Saldana did have serious bruising, and that she had water in her lungs, as Allen stated in the affidavit. It is unclear which medical personnel told Allen that Magras-Saldana's windpipe was crushed.

In the affidavit, Allen identified Dr. L. Arnold as the "attending physician," who determined that rigor mortis, or a post-death stiffening of muscles, had set in already.

Schneider Hospital CEO Bernard Wheatley identified Arnold as Dr. Latricia Arnold. It is unclear whether Arnold also determined what injuries Magras-Saldana had sustained.

Physicians are the only medical personnel who should be "giving their best judgment" of injuries to law enforcement asking questions, Wheatley said.

V.I. Police Department spokeswoman Melody Rames said that she would find out which medical personnel provided the information to Allen, though she later said that the department could not disclose the information.

"Police are not medical personnel. He had to have gotten that from someone," Rames said. "He did not go to medical school. Officers are not qualified to make that determination on their own."

It could be another month before Landron determines the official cause of death because the laboratory off-island may take a month or so before it has results, Landron said.

Thereafter, he will need some time to confer with V.I. police to discuss how the results, the autopsy and the evidence relate, he said. "Right now, I don't have enough information," Landron said about the cause of death. "I have my own theories."

Saldana remains detained pending his arraignment May 22 in Superior Court.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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