Nurse’s murder sparks call to service

Suzanne Durocher works with children in Honduras this past summer as part of a clinical tour. | COURTESY LINA KHONG
Suzanne Durocher works with children in Honduras this past summer as part of a clinical tour. | COURTESY LINA KHONG

Friends say Suzanne Durocher traveled to the mountains of Honduras this summer  looking for a “new beginning” following the death of her husband in 2011.

During the volunteer trip with Temple’s Global Medical Brigade, Durocher had the students write their personal thoughts and feelings about her and the trip in her journal. Before she left, she thanked all her fellow volunteers for their friendships formed abroad.

“We all agree that we were the lucky ones [to have met her],” said Nitasha Khanna, a second year medical student at Temple and vice president of Temple’s Global Medical Brigade. “We hope she looked back at the journal to know how we all felt.”

Students and faculty at Temple University Hospital expressed shock and sorrow after learning Durocher was stabbed to death on Wednesday, Nov. 13, in what has been ruled an attempted double murder on a mother and daughter.

According to police, Durocher, 50, the associate chief nursing officer of operations at Temple University Hospital, and her daughter, Kristen Durocher, 22, were found inside their Merchantville, N.J. home  around 10:30 p.m., each the victim of a stabbing attack. Both women were brought to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, N.J., where Kristen Durocher remained in stable condition as of Friday, Nov. 15.

Police arrested Gilberto Villanueva, 26, who they said was an ex-boyfriend of Kristen, after he checked himself into Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, also in Camden, with stab wounds to his hands and arms. Villanueva was charged with murder, attempted murder and second degree burglary.

According to a spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, Villanueva had had a restraining order placed on him by Kristen Durocher on Oct. 27, only to have it dropped on Oct. 31.

Temple Health System released a statement Thursday, Nov. 15 which said hospital staff were “shocked and saddened” to learn of the murder.

“We extend our sincerest condolences to her family and friends as they begin to deal with the after-effects of this tragic loss,” the statement read. “For the past eight years, Suzanne has been a vital and well respected member of of the hospital’s leadership team. She touched each one of us … and our patients … in a very special way. She eagerly shared with colleagues her extensive knowledge and commitment to advanced nursing practice in the delivery of quality compassionate care to patients.”

A spokesman for the hospital said a memorial is being planned in Suzanne’s honor for faculty and staff members.

In addition to the memorial, members of Temple chapter of Global Medical Brigades met Friday to mourn the loss of a friend and come up with ways to carry on her legacy.

John Daly, a professor of surgery for Temple Medical School at the Fox Chase Cancer Center who was the advising faculty member for GMB’s trip to Honduras this summer, said Suzanne exemplified the ideal Temple personality with a “fire in the belly to help others.”

“She is a person that will be sorely missed by those that worked with her, those who were friends with her and those that knew her,” Daly said.

As part of their remembrance of Suzanne, Daly and other members of the group said they are planning to create a scholarship in her name for others to participate in Global Medical Brigade trips.

Khanna said the more than 20 members of the Honduras trip all carry the shared experiences of working along with Suzanne, who led the trip’s triage unit by handling prescriptions and patient questionaires for the more than 600 villagers cared for by program.

Khanna said her colleagues will try use Suzanne’s dedication to service as an example for other medical students by holding a group guest lecture in her honor at the medical school’s class in doctoring practices.

“We all have this commonality in us, we’ll try to exude her personality,” Khanna said. “We want to teach classmates about her professionalism.”

According to a probable cause statement submitted by the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office at Villanueva’s arraignment on Thursday, Suzanne Durocher was attacked after she attempted to get the suspect to leave her house when he showed up in her daughter’s bedroom. In her statement given to police, Kristen Durocher said her mother walked Villanueva down the stairs, and after she heard a struggle went downstairs to find Villanueva stabbing her mother before turning the knife on her. Kristen was able to flee to a neighbor’s house.

“The unfortunate way she died was through protecting her daughter,” said Erin Hickey, co-president of  Temple’s Global Medical Brigade and a second-year medical student. “We wouldn’t have expected Suzanne to act in any other way.”

The members of the Temple’s Global Medical Brigade’s 2013 summer trip had a reunion in August at the hospital, from which Khanna recalled Suzanne “worked her magic” to make sure no one left without being fed after the group arrived to find that no food had been provided.

Villanueva was held on $1.75 million bail in at his arraignment in Camden County Superior Court on Friday.

  John Moritz can be reached at john.moritz@temple.edu or on  Twitter @JCMoritzTU. 

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