PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - A West Philadelphia abortion doctor, his wife and eight other suspects are now under arrest following a grand jury investigation.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 69, faces eight counts of murder in the deaths of a woman following a botched abortion at his office, along with the deaths of seven other babies who, prosecutors allege, were born alive following illegal late-term abortions and then were killed by severing their spinal cords with a pair of scissors.
"I am aware that abortion is a hot-button topic," said District Attorney Seth Williams. "But as district attorney, my job is to carry out the law. A doctor who knowingly and systematically mistreats female patients, to the point that one of them dies in his so-called care, commits murder under the law. A doctor who cuts into the necks severing the spinal cords of living, breathing babies, who would survive with proper medical attention, is committing murder under the law."
Gosnell is facing charges of murder in the third degree for the death of 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar. Mrs. Mongar died on November 20, 2009, when she was overdosed with anesthetics prescribed by Gosnell. He is also facing seven murder charges for the deaths of infants who were killed after being born viable and alive during the sixth, seventh, or eighth month of pregnancy. Gosnell is also facing numerous other charges.
Gosnell is suspected of killing hundreds of living babies over the course of his 30-year practice. However, he is not charged because the records do not exist.
DA Williams said Gosnell made approximately $1.8 million in one year alone performing the procedures.
Hear the DA's entire press conference in this CBS Philly podcast ...
Four of the suspects, some improperly licensed according to officials, also face multiple counts of murder for allegedly killing the newborns. All of the suspects are now behind bars after warrants were served overnight.
A search of Gosnell's office, called the Women's Medical Society, revealed that bags and bottles holding aborted fetuses were scattered throughout the building. Jars containing the severed feet of babies lined a shelf.
Gosnell, a family practioner, was never certified as an OB/GYN. He is accused of re-using unsanitary instruments and performing procedures in filthy rooms. Some of the rooms had litter boxes and animals present at the time of the operations.
WATCH: Exclusive Interview...
Investigators also said Gosnell allowed unlicensed employees, including a 15-year-old high school student, to perform operations and administer anesthesia.
The grand jury investigation revealed that, for over two decades, government health and licensing officials had received repeated reports about Gosnell's dangerous practices. However, no action was ever taken, even after the agencies learned that Mrs. Mongar had died during routine abortions under Gosnell's care (see related story).
Dr. Gosnell, who has practiced in the West Philadelphia neighborhood for decades, is also the target of a federal grand jury investigation into illegally prescribing prescription drugs. Investigators say during a search of his home, they found $240,000 in cash.
Defense attorney William J. Brennan, who was out of town when the arrest happened this morning, said he had not yet talked to Dr. Gosnell, but says the charges are extremely serious and emotionally charged, and it is extremely important not to have a rush to judgement. Brennan says Gosnell is "cloaked with the presumption of innocence."
Meanwhile, a civil suit has also been filed against Gosnell on behalf of the husband and children of the woman who died after an abortion. The suit seeks unspecified damages for the family of Karna Mongar, an immigrant from Bhutan who spent many years as a refugee. The suit claims she died after just five months here because of treatment by unlicenced personnel in a facility that lacked proper medical equipment.
The doctor, in past interviews with Eyewitness News, has proclaimed his innocence, predicting if charged, he will be acquitted.
Reported by Walt Hunter, CBS 3; Tony Hanson, KYW Newsradio 1060; and John Ostapkovich, KYW Newsradio 1060.
MOST VIEWED ON CBSPHILLY:
READ: Worker Killed In Massive Gas Explosion
READ: Prosecutors: Lewd Pics Sought To Drive Teen To Suicide
READ: Woman Bares All Before Entering Police Station
SLIDESHOW: Celebrities Getting Hitched
MUST SEE: Philadelphia Soul 'Soulmate' Dance Finals
for more features.