When Debbie Pignataro became ill, she assumed she had a bad case of the flu. Her condition deteriorated, and doctors were dumbfounded as to what was wrong with the mother of two. Her husband, Anthony Pignataro, was a former doctor who had his medical license taken away because he performed cosmetic surgeries illegally- This resulted in the death of a patient and Dr. Pignataro ended up serving a sentence for manslaughter. Despite his downfall, he did his best to care for his sick wife, who was now restricted to a wheelchair after displaying nerve damage in her legs, by making her soup and bringing her plenty of fluids. He pleaded with doctors to remove Debbie’s gaul-bladder in case she had a major infection, but they refused telling him that she was too weak and would not survive the surgery.
Months passed and the couple’s daughter, Lauren, now started to display symptoms of this mystery illness; Although they were nowhere near as severe. As time was running out, true crime author Ann Rule and a doctor noticed similarities between the condition and arsenic poisoning. After some tests, some alarming results were revealed: The normal amount of Arsenic in the human body stands at around 5 to 20 micrograms. Debbie had a staggering 29,524 micrograms in her system. By all accounts, she should have been dead.
Detectives suspected that the family of the young mother who had died on Dr. Pignataro’s operating table were responsible for the poisonings. But tests on Debbie’s hair revealed that the Arsenic had been in her body for months, which put them out the question as they moved cross-country after the tragic medical blunder. Then, a crucial piece of information came forward. Young Lauren Pignataro remembered that on the night she became ill, she had eaten some of the soup that was made for her mother. The soup was prepared by her father, which led police to believe that he was responsible. Eventually, it was discovered that he had been buying a pest-repellent in bulk, that contained arsenic as a main ingredient. His motives remain unclear, but a manuscript was found in his basement titled MD: Mass Destruction and it detailed his downfall and his beliefs that the medical field were conspiring against him. Police felt that his motive for poisoning his wife might have been to clear himself of the charges in the death of the woman who died under his knife. They believed that he knew his wife would die during a gaul-bladder removal, so he was trying to prove that any doctor can lose a patient. He was also having an affair, and he knew that he couldn’t divorce Debbie because his mother would disapprove and leave him out the Will. Ultimately, in Dr. Pignataro’s warped mind, the only way to solve his problems would be to kill his wife.