Plutonium Injections; part 2 of 4

Albuquerque Tribune

Albuquerque Tribune

There was a three part series titled The Plutonium Experiment published in the Albuquerque Tribune from 15 – 17 Nov. 1993. It totaled 44 tabloid size pages. At that time only four of the names of the patients injected from throughout the country were known.

Usually after a story this large appears in another newspaper, the hometown newspaper would pick up the story and republish at least part of it. The Democrat & Chronicle wasn’t interested in publishing the story. I think that they might have been hesitant to publish a story that might hurt the reputation of Strong Memorial Hospital. Eventually Ms. Welsome had to call the D&C and asked if they were interested. The D&C finally did publish the story of the plutonium injections on 3 Jan. 1994. The story started on the bottom of the front page with a “health” tag and continued on the back page of that section. In total the D&C story covered only one full sheet. They also included a statement asking for people with information on the then 8 unknowns to call the D&C office. No one called. There is only one mention of Ms. Welsome in the D&C article even though the entire story is based on her work.

Things heated up again in late February 1994 when even more documents had arrived from the Department of Energy (DOE). This time, Ms. Welsome found two places where they didn’t black out Jean Daigneault’s name (patient HP-4). Ms. Welsome got a document about patient HP-1 that had “Lov” written on it. I went through the obits in the newspaper microfilms at the Rochester Public Library and found one with the correct date of death that had the name Amedio Lovecchio. The DOE also sent another documents showing the initials for patient HP-2 as being “W. P.” Again it was short work, because I had the date of death, to figure out that his name was William Purcell . I even found a picture of him in his hospital bed in an old Times-Union article. I also was able to figure out whom patient HP-7 was because Ms. Welsome had the date of death and the place of death was listed as Stafford, NY. That patient was Edna Bartholf (HP-7).

Ms. Welsome wanted the death certificates of Amedio Lovecchio and William Purcell as a double check.  I needed the death certificates as soon as possible so I used a trick. I told the people in the Health Department that I needed certificates for proof of death so that I could cash in saving bonds. I learned that trick because years before I actually did have a savings bond from my grandmother that said it was payable upon her death. So I asked for both death certificates and told the clerk they were my grandfathers. The clerk in the Health Department bent over backwards to help and I had them within minutes. If you think about it, how could it be possible that neither of my grandfathers have my surname?

I can’t remember who I was looking for, but I went to see the clerk for the Village of Clifton Springs, NY. All I had was initials and a death date and asked for the clerk to search the records. Instead, she brought the whole book over for me to search. I wish that I could do that everywhere! In spite of being able to look at the records, I didn’t find anyone that matched the clues I had.

I had medical details about patient HP-11 for a while. I had gone through the newspaper microfilms but had found more than one person that matched the death date. Then Ms. Welsome received more documents from the Department of Energy. Included with the documents were a heavily censored death certificate and a note that he had been in the Spanish-American War. That fit someone that I already had; Harry Slack (HP-11). Again, Ms. Welsome wanted me to go get a death certificate. It had only been a couple of days since I had been to the Health Department but I got someone else and again I told them that I needed the death certificate of my grandfather to cash a savings bond. I got it minutes and it was a perfect match (except not censored).