Vol. 20,  No. 1 Jan. 11 - 24,  2007


Slaying of Beloved Doc Shakes North Fordham


Every morning since the brutal slaying of her 3-year-old twins’ beloved pediatrician, Dr. Leandro Lozado, Sofia Nivar hopes she’s waking up from a nightmare.

“We still can’t believe it,” Nivar said almost a week after Lozado, 46, was found dead in his Yonkers home with several bullet wounds, including two to the head.

A doctor born and educated in the Dominican Republic, Lozado made a point of opening his medical clinic, Hispanic Pediatrics, in a mostly Latino, low-income neighborhood: on Kingsbridge Road in North Fordham.

“He worked very hard for his practice,” Nivar said. “He could have opened it anywhere, but he wanted to have his practice here where he knew people needed him.”

When Nivar gave birth prematurely to twin baby girls, doctors told her that one of them would probably never walk. But when she took the child to see Lozado, the optimistic pediatrician gave her hope, saying the child showed signs of increasing intelligence and strength. Now, at age 3 1/2, the little girl isn’t just walking, she’s running.

“He’s very positive and comforting,” Nivar said, briefly slipping into the present tense. “He wasn’t just a doctor, he was also a counselor.”

Maria Quiles, a receptionist at Hispanic Pediatrics, said Lozado was so multi-faceted, “you could make a dictionary out of what he was.”

Lozado gave each child personalized attention and care. “He didn’t have to look at his charts to know what was going on,” Nivar said. “He knew your child’s name. It wasn’t mechanical, he knew everyone by name.”

Last week, New York metro area newspapers were filled with comments from patients, friends and colleagues echoing Nivar’s sentiments.

“Sometimes, if you didn't have money, he would say ‘no, that’s okay,’” said Carmen Salgado, whose daughter used to see Lozado, as she stopped to look at a memorial of flowers, letters and candles outside of the clinic. "And it’s so sad, because we’re not going to get someone like him again.”

His goal as a physician, Lozado wrote in a personal statement on the State Department of Health Web site, was to “give something back to society by serving my community, which is in need of good and culturally sensitive medical care.”

Nivar and others are still baffled and “paranoid” about the circumstances surrounding Lozado’s death. Staffers at his clinic at 229 Kingsbridge Rd. said they are not releasing any more information about Lozado to protect themselves and their office. A week later, mourners continue to stop by to offer hugs and condolences to those who work at Hispanic Pediatrics, which will remain open despite the tragedy.

A man with no known enemies, Lozado failed to show for work last Wednesday at the clinic he set up a decade ago. Because the doctor is usually punctual, worried colleagues at the clinic called Lozado’s girlfriend, who works nearby as a pediatric surgeon at Montefiore Medical Center. She later told police she found Lozado’s body at his Yonkers home, at 43 Brendon Rd., just before 3 p.m.

Initially, Yonkers police were perplexed by the apparently targeted murder. But last Saturday, police arrested Samuel Saunders, and the Yonkers district attorney charged the 59-year-old Bronx resident with second degree murder in the Lozado case.

According to media reports, Saunders used to own Lozado’s home and police say he killed the doctor for money. Lozado bought the house on Brendon Road after the bank foreclosed on Saunders’ loan. Police said a roll of cash was missing from Lozado’s home and that they found blood-stained clothing in Saunders’ residence.

Some 200 friends, family, colleagues and patients, including Nivar, attended a memorial service for Lozado on Saturday evening in Washington Heights.

Everyone in attendance was still terribly shaken by the brutality and inexplicable suddenness of Lozado’s murder, Nivar said.

While people often have nice things to say about people who have died, Nivar said everyone said the same wonderful things about him when he was alive as well.

Nivar, who lives near Lozado’s clinic, said she still hasn’t figured out how to tell her twins that the only doctor they’ve ever known was killed. “They know nothing,” she said. “He always gave them stickers. They liked going to the doctor. It was always, ‘Mommy, we want to go to the doctor.’’”

Laura Sayer contributed to this article.

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