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Judge not swayed by tears in doctor’s prescription pad murder case

March 16, 2012 | 12:01 pm

Doctor Lisa TsengA Rowland Heights physician charged with murder in connection with three fatal overdoses pleaded not guilty Friday, and a judge refused to lower her bail.

Hsiu-Ying "Lisa" Tseng, 42, wearing an orange jumpsuit, stared at the ground and wiped tears from her face throughout her arraignment and bail hearing in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

She is charged with three counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of three men in their 20s and is accused of recklessly prescribing narcotic painkillers and other addictive drugs.

Tseng was arrested March 1 and led handcuffed from her storefront clinic in a strip mall near the 60 Freeway. She has been held at the Century Regional Detention Facility in lieu of $3-million bail.

Judge Shelly Torrealba denied the request of Tseng's attorney, T. Edward Welbourn, to lower Tseng's bail to an amount between $750,000 and $1 million.

"I see this situation no differently than any other murder situation," Torrealba said. "Three people are dead."

Welbourn had asked the judge to consider Tseng's two young children and asked that the court "allow her to be a mother" throughout the proceedings of the case.

The charges against Tseng represent a rare attempt to hold a physician criminally liable for patients' deaths.

"It is a unique case , but at the same time, at the end of the day, the evidence is going to justify the filing," Deputy Dist. Atty. John Niedermann said after the hearing.

Tseng is charged in connection with the deaths of Vu Nguyen, 28, of Lake Forest; Joey Rovero, 21, an Arizona State University student from San Ramon, east of Oakland; and Steven Ogle, 25, of Palm Desert.

Rovero's mother, April, was present for the hearing and wore a bracelet with the words "RX Abuse, One Pill Can Kill." Rovero was pleased with the results of the hearing, she said.

"I saw that she had the tears going," Rovero said of Tseng. "But I kept thinking to myself, however many tears you're crying today, it doesn't even compare to the amount of tears I've cried over the last two years. You'll never cry as many tears as I've cried over my son."


-- Hailey Branson-Potts at Los Angeles County Superior Court


Photo: Dr. Hsiu-Ying "Lisa" Tseng faces three counts of second-degree murder in connection of three fatal overdoses. Credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press