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Dream job turns to tragedy for Jackson doctor

Dr. Conrad Murray hasn’t spoken publicly since Jackson died, leaving it to his lawyers to recount what happened when Jackson was stricken June 25 in his rented mansion.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Dr. Conrad Murray called it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: He signed on as Michael Jackson’s personal physician in May for a six-figure monthly salary and agreed to accompany him for the entertainer’s much-hyped London comeback concerts.

Now, with Jackson dead, the Las Vegas cardiologist has vanished from public view and his future is unclear as police investigators unravel the details of Jackson’s complicated medical history and extensive drug use.

Murray hasn’t spoken publicly since Jackson died June 25, leaving it to his lawyers to recount what happened when Jackson was stricken June 25 in his rented mansion. One of Murray’s friends recently spoke to him and described the normally upbeat, easygoing doctor as shaken.

“Anything like that, I’m sure it’s going to weigh heavy on you,” said retired autoworker Ben Mask of Houston, 69, who is also a patient of Murray’s.

With Murray out of sight, his role in Jackson’s final weeks and days remains murky. Authorities are awaiting toxicology results and other tests being conducted by the coroner to determine a cause of death. The singer’s family requested a private autopsy in part because of questions about Murray’s role, the Rev. Jesse Jackson has said.

Among other things, Murray’s lawyers have acknowledged it took up to 30 minutes for paramedics to be summoned to Jackson’s home after he was found unresponsive and Murray began CPR.

Murray declined an interview request through his lawyer’s office. His lawyers say that although his car was impounded by investigators, he is not a suspect, and police credit the doctor with providing helpful information during a three-hour interview.

“Dr. Murray didn’t prescribe or administer anything that should have killed Michael Jackson,” one of his attorneys, Edward Chernoff, said in a statement.

‘Michael said he had a rapport with him’Murray, 56, first met Jackson in Las Vegas when the doctor treated one of the singer’s children a few years ago. Why a cardiologist treated a child or why Jackson wanted a heart doctor by his side remain unclear, but he became the pop star’s personal physician in May.

The promoter of Jackson’s now-canceled London concerts said the singer insisted the company hire Murray to accompany him to England. The promoter, AEG Live, advanced Jackson money to pay the doctor and had been negotiating to pay him $150,000 a month, AEG president and chief executive Randy Phillips said.

“Michael said he had a rapport with him,” Phillips told The Associated Press last month. “He just said, ‘Look, this whole business revolves around me. I’m a machine and we have to keep the machine well-oiled,’ and you don’t argue with the ‘King of Pop.’”

Snippets of Murray’s life were included in a statement released by his lawyers shortly after Jackson’s death and other details are available through public records.

He was born in St. Andrews, Grenada, and lived his first seven years with his maternal grandparents. The lawyers’ statement does not mention his parents’ relationship, but notes he did not meet his father, a doctor, until 1978, when he was 25.

Murray later moved to Trinidad and Tobago, where he joined his mother and stepfather. He was educated there and worked as a schoolteacher in Trinidad, a customs clerk and insurance underwriter before turning to medicine.

He was in his early 30s when he graduated in 1989 from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn. He did additional training at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and Loma Linda University Medical Center in California, and had fellowships in interventional cardiology at the University of Arizona Medical Center and University of California, San Diego.

He is licensed to practice in California, Texas and Nevada, and records show he has had no disciplinary actions taken against him.

Married with an unknown number of children, Murray lives in an exclusive golfing community of large homes flanked by mountains in Las Vegas. Armed guards turned away reporters who tried to visit the home.

Murray took a leave from his practice last month. In a letter to his Nevada patients, he said he was leaving “because of a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

‘It was all happening so fast’He spent the night of June 24 at Jackson’s Los Angeles estate and the next morning found the pop star unconscious and not breathing in bed.

It’s unclear what exactly happened next since the only public account of what occurred after Jackson was found has been provided by Murray’s lawyers. They say with Jackson still on the bed, Murray placed one hand under his back to support his frail body and began chest compressions with his other hand. After five or 10 minutes, Jackson still was lifeless.

Murray had a cell phone, but didn’t know the address to give to paramedics so he called out for help. When no one came, he became increasingly desperate and left Jackson’s side to run downstairs for help, said Matt Alford, a partner in the Houston-based law firm representing Murray.

Jackson’s chef alerted a security guard who raced to the bedroom and called paramedics as Murray resumed CPR. Twenty to 30 minutes had passed before paramedics arrived.

“It was all happening so fast,” Alford said.

Paramedics were on the scene in just over three minutes and tried to revive the music superstar for another 42 minutes before sliding him into the ambulance and racing with lights flashing and siren blaring to UCLA Medical Center.

Murray rode with Jackson to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Jackson’s death focused attention on Murray and his background.

Bumpy personal and financial history?He is not board-certified, according to the American Board of Medical Specialties, the national organization that certifies, trains and set standards for medical doctors. His 10-year certification in internal medicine expired in December and he was never certified as a specialist in cardiovascular disease.

Board certification is not a legal requirement to practice medicine but is considered an important credential for physicians and can be required by some health care companies.

While Murray’s medical record appears clear of disciplinary actions, records suggest a bumpy personal and financial history.

A Las Vegas judge recently rejected extending a temporary protection order he had against a woman who filed a paternity case against him in May 2007, according to court records. The case is sealed in Clark County family court.

Over the last 18 months, Murray’s Nevada medical practice, Global Cardiovascular Associates, has been slapped with more than $400,000 in court judgments: $228,000 to Citicorp Vendor Finance Inc.; $71,000 to an education loan company; and $135,000 to a leasing company.

He faces at least two other pending cases.

Court records show Murray was hit last December with a nearly $3,700 judgment for failure to pay child support in San Diego, and had his wages garnished the same month for almost $1,500 by a credit card company. Another credit card claim for more than $1,100 filed in April remains open.

He also owes $940 in fines and penalties for driving with an expired license plate and for not having proof of insurance in 2000.

Mask and other patients whose names were provided by Murray’s law firm have lavish praise for the doctor they say always has time to chat during office visits. His caring, friendly personality creates a bond with his patients, said the Rev. Curtis Lewis, 63, who has received extensive treatment from Murray.

“It hurts him to lose a person,” said Lewis, of the Greater Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Houston. “I was just about gone. He did a lot of work on me.”