LOS ANGELES — The start of a complex preliminary hearing was delayed Friday in the case of a Rowland Heights doctor accused of three counts of murder in the deaths of three young men who overdosed on powerful pain drugs while under her care in 2009.
At a brief hearings Friday morning and again in the afternoon, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge M.L. Villar de Longoria ordered all sides in the case to return to court Monday afternoon in the case of Hsiuying “Lisa” Tseng, 42, of Walnut.
The preliminary hearing, in which the judge will listen to a summary of the evidence from the defense and prosecution and determine whether there is sufficient evidence to order a trial, is expected to take more than two weeks.
Tseng was arrested March 1 and has been charged with three counts of murder, as well as 20 other felony charges related to the improper distribution of powerful painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and Methadone.
Through abuse of her prescription pad, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials allege, Tseng killed Vu Nguyen, 29, of Lake Forest, who died March 2, 2009; Steven Ogle, 25, of Palm Desert, who died April 9, 2009; and Joseph Rovero III, 21, of San Ramon, who died Dec. 18, 2009.
Prosecutors allege the drugs were prescribed without a valid medical reason.
Tseng, a doctor of osteopathic medicine, practiced out of a clinic called Advanced Care AAA Medical in Rowland Heights, which was searched by investigators in August of 2010. She has remained jailed in lieu of $3 million since her arrest earlier this year.
At her brief court appearance Friday morning, Tseng sat hunched silently, her hands shackled at the waist, using a tissue to dab her eyes beneath wire-framed glasses. She clutched a yellow bag.
She was represented in court by attorneys Allan Stokke and T. Edward Welbourn. Two other lawyers, Anthony Brooklier and Donald Marks, also comprise the doctor’s defense team.
Brooklier declined to comment Friday.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times prior to her arrest, Tseng denied any wrongdoing and said she can’t be held responsible for patients who abuse their prescriptions.
Tseng has already settled in civil court with the families of five five other men who overdosed in 2009 on powerful pain killers prescribed by the doctor.
Tseng, who earned her medical license in 1997, began practicing at the Rowland Heights clinic in 2005.
Deputy district attorneys John Niedermann and Grace Rai are prosecuting the case.
If convicted as charged, Tseng could face 45 years to life in state prison.