The “Lidocaine Killer:” Robert Diaz

Nov 22, 2010 - by Ronnie Smith

Robert Diaz

Robert Diaz (photo from San Quentin warden's office)

Robert Diaz, the nurse who killed by injecting elderly patients with Lidocaine, evades the lethal injection execution awaiting him by dying at age 72.

by Ronnie D. Smith

Over the years I had thought how ironic it would be when they executed “Lidocaine Killer” Robert Rubane Diaz by lethal injection. On August 11, 2010, Diaz, 72, died of natural causes on California’s death row. Dying of natural causes was a luxury he never afforded the dozen, helpless old people he murdered in their hospital beds by injecting them with lethal doses of the heart drug Lidocaine three decades ago in Riverside County.

I first made contact with Diaz in May 1981 when he was a 43-year-old registered nurse and I was a reporter for a daily newspaper in Riverside, California. I had gotten a tip that investigators searched his home in the Mojave Desert town of Apple Valley, California -- known then for its most famous residents, cowboy movie stars Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

I didn’t know as I stood at the front door of the ranch-style home Diaz had rented from a county politician that six months later the soft-spoken, cardiac care nurse would be charged with twelve first-degree murders in a case that made national headlines and plunged Southern California into a health care crisis.

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