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Body found at Louisiana nursing home

Owners charged in 34 deaths

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Charles Foti, the Louisiana attorney general, announces criminal charges last month against St. Rita's owners.

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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (CNN) -- Louisiana's attorney general said Monday that authorities have discovered another body at the New Orleans-area nursing home that failed to evacuate its residents in the face of Hurricane Katrina, bringing the total number who died there to 35.

"In the St. Rita Nursing Home just this weekend we found another body who we think is a nursing home patient, a lady who had a feeding tube in her stomach," Charles Foti Jr. told CNN's "American Morning."

Foti said efforts were under way to identify the body.

Mable and Salvador Mangano Sr., the home's husband-and-wife owners, have been charged with 34 counts of negligent homicide.

In all, 13 nursing homes are under criminal investigation for failure to evacuate their patients before the Category 4 storm made landfall August 29.

"We said that we'd investigate every death that occurred in a nursing home or a hospital at this time so we'll have a true overall picture of what happened," Foti said.

The attorney general said the failure to evacuate resulted in the deaths of perhaps more than 100 senior citizens in Louisiana.

State law required that nursing homes and hospitals evacuate, he said.

"A hospital is entrusted with the lives of their patients. That's why they're there. They can't do it for themselves so they have a higher duty of care than you would have," he said. "You decide you want to leave the hurricane, that's fine. That's your decision, but when you have the custody -- you have somebody placed in your care -- you have to use reasonable care to protect them."

Jim Cobb, a lawyer for the Manganos, has called Foti's charges "out of bounds and a prosecutorial abuse of discretion."

He asserted that parish officials never issued a mandatory evacuation order -- a claim disputed by Foti -- and that his clients were reluctant to evacuate their patients without such an order because they knew many would not have survived being taken from the facility.

Cobb blamed the Army Corps of Engineers and its levees. When they failed, floodwater engulfed the nursing home. "Look at their negligence," he said.

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