Nurse arrested for manslaughter also investigated for injury to infant

07/16/2014 9:27 PM

07/16/2014 9:28 PM

A Merced man arrested late last month in the death of a man at the Merced Theatre is also the center of an investigation into an unrelated but high-profile incident that resulted in an infant suffering third-degree burns, according to documents obtained by the Sun-Star.

Jesse J. Saucedo III was arrested June 27 on suspicion of manslaughter in connection with the death of Jack Kline on April 9. Kline, 55, died three weeks after he was allegedly punched in the face multiple times by Saucedo during a fight at a comedy show in downtown Merced.

Merced County District Attorney Larry D. Morse II expects to decide next week whether to formally charge Saucedo in Kline’s death.

The Sun-Star has learned that the day before Saucedo was arrested in the homicide case, the California Board of Registered Nursing filed a formal accusation against him, saying he was responsible for burning the hand of a 3-month-old girl with a light bulb in 2012. The nursing board is seeking to suspend Saucedo’s nursing license, according to Cristina Valdivia, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the board.

“The board has put in the request to have his license suspended, and he also faces the disciplinary action of the accusation that was filed on June 26,” Valdivia said. “His license is current pending the court and administrative proceedings.”

Saucedo, a registered nurse, was working in the emergency room at Mercy Medical Center on March 27, 2012, when the child suffered a third-degree burn on her left hand. Saucedo used a special, unapproved light bulb without its protective cover while trying to locate a vein to administer an IV to the infant, according to the accusation filed by the nursing board.

The hospital was fined $50,000 by the state in October 2013 for the incident. The girl’s family sued the hospital, settling out of court earlier this year for undisclosed damages, according to the family’s attorney, Moseley Collins. The attorney said he couldn’t discuss specifics of the settlement but that the infant’s family was “satisfied” with the outcome.

Saucedo was never publicly identified as the nurse suspected of being responsible in the burn incident until the nursing board filed its accusation June 26. Saucedo’s attorney, Neil Morse, declined to comment.

The board has formally accused Saucedo of gross negligence and incompetence in connection with the burning incident, according to the documents filed online.

Bob McLaughlin, a spokesman for Mercy Medical Center, earlier this week confirmed Saucedo is a nurse at the hospital, but said he couldn’t elaborate other than to say Saucedo doesn’t work at the hospital full time.

Russ Heimerich, Department of Consumer Affairs spokesman, said he couldn’t comment on the investigation, but that it’s generally common for the administrative process to take some time. He said the two-year lag between the burning incident and the formal accusation wasn’t unusual.

After an allegation is filed, Heimerich said, the accused has 30 days to formally dispute the claims and request a hearing. It was unclear whether any hearings have been scheduled.

Additionally, Heimerich said, the board is always made aware when a nurse is arrested in connection with a violent crime. A nurse’s license typically is suspended pending the outcome of the criminal case. A conviction for a violent crime can result in the nurse losing his or her license, he said.

However, Saucedo could lose his license even if criminal charges are never filed, officials acknowledged. “The fact that a person is arrested can lead the board to take action. An arrest alone can be grounds to take a license,” Heimerich said.

Saucedo is the son-in-law of Merced Police Chief Norman Andrade. Merced police have denied there was any conflict of interest for their department to handle the investigation of Saucedo. Police said Andrade recused himself from the case and wasn’t involved in any discussions or decision regarding the matter.

Officers have said Saucedo received no special treatment and pointed to his arrest as evidence. He remains free on bail.

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