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Couple Pleads Not Guilty In "Surgical" Death

Fri, 05/20/2011 - 6:35am

Cristina Silva, AP

A Colombian couple facing murder charges stemming from a fatal back-office buttocks enhancement surgery has pleaded not guilty.

"Inocente," Ruben Dario Matallana-Galvas and Carmen Olfidia Torres-Sanchez said in Spanish in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas. The husband and wife, who do not speak English, were given a trial date. They had hoped to return to their native Colombia before they were arrested, and their lawyers say the two remain eager to go home. "For professional people, being in jail is no picnic," said public defender Scott Coffee, who is representing Matallana-Galvas.

A grand jury last week indicted Matallana-Galvas, 55, and Torres-Sanchez, 47, on charges including felony second-degree murder and robbery, and misdemeanor practicing medicine without a license. Authorities allege the husband and wife were running a makeshift medical office in the back room of a tile business when they gave a Las Vegas woman who wanted a shapelier figure a fatal buttocks injection. Neither suspect had a license to practice medicine in Nevada, officials said.

Police arrested the pair at McCarran International Airport on April 9, hours after 42-year-old Elena Caro's death. The husband and wife had purchased plane tickets to return to their native Columbia on April 22 but were trying to catch an earlier flight. Under questioning, Matallana-Galvas told detectives he injected Caro with a gel substance, and she was able to walk away from his office after the procedure, according to a police report.

Caro was found roaming the streets in agony hours after the injection, authorities said. She was taken to a hospital, where she died. Authorities are awaiting the results of toxicology tests. During the initial arraignment Thursday, Matallana-Galvas and Torres-Sanchez said through a translator that they were both college-educated. Torres-Sanchez worked as a lawyer in Colombia, while Matallana-Galvas was a practiced homeopathic doctor, attorneys said.

Asked why the couple had allegedly practiced medicine without a license, Coffee said details of the case would surface in the trial. He said he had been told he would not be able to view the autopsy report until July.

Caro was married and had a teenage daughter. A week before her death, she had received facial Botox injections from Matallana-Galvas. When no problems arose, she returned for the buttocks injection.

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