Los Angeles: This past Monday evening, two Van Nuys patrol officers responded to a call for help…54-year old Roberto Caceres lay unconscious in the driveway of a clinic. Not a medical clinic…but what homicide detectives have now learned was the location of an unlicensed "faith healer". On Tuesday, Detectives arrested 48-year old Reina Chavarria and 28-year old Margarita Montes. The women allegedly gave Mr. Caceres two injections.…what was in those injections we still don’t know, but Mr. Caceres is dead and the so called "faith healers" now face charges of involuntary manslaughter.
On Wednesday, following an LAPD news conference, the Department received an anonymous call from a woman who said she had tipped off Narcotics Division Personnel in May 2001 about the "faith healers" and continued to call over the past several months. Detectives tracked that woman down and interviewed her this morning. The Department was advised that she did have contact with the suspects. She has agreed to give us hundreds of audiotapes of interviews the suspects conducted on a local Spanish Language Radio Station.
Los Angeles Chief of Police William F. Bratton stated, "When I learned we had been given a tip about these "faith healers" more than a year ago…I immediately ordered the Department’s Internal Affairs Group to launch a full investigation. I’m concerned and have many questions about how that tip was handled. I have learned that following September 11th, many of our Narcotics Detectives were re-assigned to handle Homeland Security issues and because of staffing shortages, basic narcotics information couldn’t be immediately pursued."
Chief Bratton continued, "The LAPD has dedicated, hard working people. I’m not looking to place blame, but to make sure the residents of this city can TRUST that when they call the LAPD…we respond! At the completion of our investigation, it may become clear that the current policies and procedures in place may not be the best way to do business. Again, I want to stress, Van Nuys Detectives are still seeking additional victims who were treated by these women."
Anyone with information is asked to call Van Nuys Area homicide detectives at 818-756-8377. On weekends and during off-hours, call the 24-hour toll free number at the Detective Information Desk, 1-877-LAWFULL, 1-877-529-3855.
Upon becoming aware of the aforementioned information, Chief Bratton immediately directed the commanding officer of Van Nuys Community Police Station to personally meet with the Caceres family and offer the Department’s condolences; additionally, to assure the family that the Department will conduct a thorough investigation into this matter.
Public Information Director Ms. Mary Grady prepared this release.