So, I had planned to post something yesterday, but the visit with the dog trainer took longer than expected. Then last night I thought I’d have something, and, for some reason, right after spending a couple of hours with the puppies after having fed them and their mom, I crashed for the night on the couch, only to wake up around 11:30 PM to go into the basement, check on the puppies (and, of course, to play with them), and clean their pen. But, as a consequence of my messed up sleep schedule the last couple of days, I did wake up earlier than usual, which led me to think that a brief post was possible. Specifically, I wanted to update you on a tragic story that I blogged about over a year and a half ago. It’s about a naturopath named Juan Gonzalez, a cancer patient named Fikreta Ibrisevic, and the cancer patient’s husband, who is named Omer Ahmetovic.
As I’ve mentioned before, naturopathy is a frequent topic on this blog because it is a veritable cornucopia of quackery. Be it homeopathy, functional medicine, bogus diagnostic tests, traditional Chinese medicine, reflexology, naturopaths embrace basically any form of quackery you can think of and more that even I couldn’t think of before I started looking into naturopathy. More importantly, thanks to “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), known more recently as “integrative medicine,” naturopathy is becoming more and more “respectable.” Indeed, there are naturopaths at far too many academic medical centers. One even participated in the writing of the Society for Integrative Oncology’s breast cancer guidelines, which were later endorsed by ASCO. Then there is the push for naturopathic licensure in various states, such as Massachusetts and my home state of Michigan, with supplement manufacturers paying the bill.
In any event, in March 2017, there was a murder in Bowling Green, KY. The victim of the murder was the aforementioned naturopath named Juan Gonzalez, who was shot to death in his Bowling Green office on a Friday evening by a man named Omer Ahmetovic, the aforementioned husband of Fikreta Ibrisevic. He was quickly arrested for the crime. But what was Ahmetovic’s motive for murder? His wife, Fikreta Ibrisevic, was a patient of Gonzalez’s who had died four days before the murder, after having been diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, an rare form of connective tissue cancer. She had, tragically, chosen Gonzalez over over conventional cancer therapy:
Ibrisevic was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft-tissue cancer, in late 2015 to early 2016, according to the lawsuit. The couple were interested in natural therapies while Ibrisevic waited to be scheduled for the beginning of traditional cancer treatments.
On or near Jan. 11, 2016, Gonzalez told the couple that traditional cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy were for “uneducated” people and he could “guarantee” Ibrisevic would be cancer free with his treatments within three months, according to the lawsuit. He is further accused of telling Ibrisevic that “chemotherapy is for losers.”
In a lawsuit, Ahmetovic claimed that his wife was planning on undergoing conventional therapy for her cancer but changed her mind and decided to pursue naturopathic treatments in response to Gonzalez’s statement that “chemotherapy is for losers” and his other claims, particularly his claim that he could render her cancer-free within three months without the toxicity of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the results of Ibrisevic’s decision were sadly predictable:
Ibrisevic began treatments which included buying herbs from Gonzalez, massages, foot soaks, dietary instructions and other treatments. From January through May 2016, Ibrisevic and Ahmetovic paid Gonzalez and Natural Health Center for Integrative Medicine more than $7,000 for the treatments and herbs, according to the lawsuit.
When Ibrisevic began treatment, she had one tumor. When she discontinued treatment with Gonzalez she had seven tumors, according to the lawsuit.
“The original tumor became so large to the extent that it was visible outside of her body,” according to the lawsuit. “Her eyes began to turn yellow and her legs began to swell. After she discontinued treatment with the defendants, after one round of traditional chemotherapy, the only tumor that remained was the original tumor.”
Ibrisevic died of her cancer on February 27, 2017. Four days later, Ahmetovic went to Gonzalez’s office and shot him to death.
At the time, I documented the full extent of the quackery offered by Not-a-Doctor Gonzalez, including iridology and a whole host of unscientific, pseudoscientific, unproven, and disproven methods—basically the usual suspects beloved of naturopaths. I also noted how Gonzalez didn’t graduate from an “accredited” naturopathy school, which led organized naturopathy to use this tragic case of a woman who might not have had to die but died because a quack had conned her and her distraught husband who unfortunately decided to take violent revenge on the quack. It’s a sentiment that anyone can understand, but that I can’t condone.
So, after that recap, you’re probably wondering: Where’s the update? Here it is, in the form of a story published two days ago in the Bowling Green Daily News:
A man serving a 12-year prison sentence for crimes stemming from the shooting death of his late wife’s naturopathic caregiver appeared in court Monday and requested shock probation.
Omer Ahmetovic has served about 20 months of his sentence for second-degree manslaughter and tampering with physical evidence.
Ahmetovic, 36, was initially charged with murder in the March 2, 2017, death of Juan Gonzalez, 59, who was shot at his business, The Natural Health Center for Integrative Medicine, on U.S. 31-W By-Pass.
Basically, what happened after Ahmetovic was arrested was that he accepted a plea deal to plead guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree manslaughter and the tampering count, which was added in a superseding indictment.
I had no idea what “shock probation” is; fortunately the article told me:
Shock probation is a form of early release available in Kentucky to first-time offenders convicted of certain crimes and is granted at a judge’s discretion.
To support the request, Ahmetovic’s attorney made several arguments:
In filings in the criminal case, Ahmetovic’s attorney, Alan Simpson, alleged that Gonzalez sexually assaulted Ibrisevic during at least one appointment.
Simpson filed the motion for shock probation Nov. 26, arguing that his client’s “own good judgment and character were overcome with anger and revenge” in the wake of his wife’s death.
“It is also quite clear that when (Ahmetovic) committed the offense, he was acting under extreme emotional disturbance that, quite frankly, is understandable, under the circumstances,” Simpson said in his motion.
Simpson’s request for shock probation included proposed conditions that Ahmetovic perform 1,000 hours of community service through Hillvue Heights and Fountain Square churches, complete anger management and grief counseling programs and continue undergoing psychotherapy for as long as necessary.
The response of the district attorney is that the homicide “may be understandable, but it’s not justifiable under the law.”
Personally, I’m torn here. The homicide was definitely understandable. Imagine yourself in Ahmetovic’s shoes. Your wife just died what was likely a horrific death that was potentially avoidable with science-based treatment. Worse, you and your wife had been ready to undertake that treatment until a quack named Juan Gonzalez said that “chemo is for losers” and spun a tale of how your wife could have the same result without all the toxicity and suffering of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Once you realized that your wife was not getting better and that you had been conned, your lawsuit against the quack appeared to be dragging on, with no assurance that you would prevail. The quack was continuing to con other cancer patients, just as he had conned your wife. The state was unlikely to do anything about the quack. On the other hand, we are a nation of laws. Vigilante justice is not acceptable. No one has the right to be judge, jury, and executioner, no matter how much it might appear to that person that the offender deserves to die.
In the end, though, I do think that some leniency is in order. Maybe shock probation after only 20 months is too lenient. Maybe it’s not. Again, I’m torn. It appears unlikely that Ahmetovic is a danger to society, and his children, having lost their mother, do need their father. Whatever is decided in this appeal, however, the story of Fikreta Ibrisevic, her husband Omer Ahmetovic, and the quack who killed Ibrisevic is a tragic saga that shows the damage these naturopathic quacks do.
55 replies on “The case of Omer Ahmetovic: Naturopathy, cancer, tragedy, and homicide”
My personal feeling is, “Yes, let the poor man go! Why should these naturopaths act with impunity?” But of course, you’re quite right–we cannot administer justice based on our own feelings, and the naturopath did not hold a gun to Ibrisevic’s head, however culpable he is for her failure to seek proper treatment. And he, too, no doubt has family who loved him and miss him.
I still hope Ahmetovic is released early, though.
This is a heartbreaking case that I have watched play out. The deceased wife was a friend, as is her husband. While murder is never the answer, I myself saw grief more visceral than any I had ever seen before I’m the days after Fikreta’s tragic death. There is also the fact that just before her death she informed Omer that the Quack in question has been touching her inappropriately.
He, being Juan Gonzalez, does have a family that consists of three daughters, 2 sons in law, and seven grandchildren. He missed the birth of his 7th grand child being born and the wedding of his middle daughter which happened to be just 3 months after his death!!!!! He is missed dearly and regardless of whether you chose to believe a lawsuit that was dismissed and unfounded surely you can agree that there are 2 sides to every story. This particular story was always he said versus she said and with the passing of both my dad and Mr. Ahmetovic’s wife there is no one left to tell the story. It’s disgusting that one person’s word would be taken for fact when Mr. Gonzalez cannot defend himself or set the record straight.
While we are most sympathetic to the loss of Mr. Ahmetovic’s wife both Mr. Ahmetovich and his wife made a choice to follow a treatment plan. They chose repeatedly to return to my dad’s practice. They were not forced. My dad had zero choice in his death.
Because my sisters and I were raised in faith and following in my Dad’s motto of “be love” we did in court offer forgiveness. This does not mean that we condone Ahmetovic’s behavior it simply means we trust to leave things in God’s more capable hands and choose not to harbor hate or ill will. We continue to pray for Mr. Ahmetovic’s children and for all the loss they have suffered. For their sakes we are thankful that have their dad home with them- children should have their Dads as long as possible.
It has not been easy to see my Dad’s name smeared thru the mud but for those that knew him and were familiar with his practice know what to believe based on their own interactions with him and what is purely speculation.
It’s frightening to see some of the comments made and judgements passed purely based on the profession my dad felt called to do. You don’t have to understand naturopathy or agree with his practice but bottomline out of respect for all humanity and any human life you should remember that Juan Gonzalez was a person. He was a dad. He was grandfather. He was a friend. He was a retired staff sergent. This isn’t just a news story… for us, this is real life and a loss and grief that will forever be felt.
No one should have the right to take another person’s life.
I’m sorry, but a man was killed. I think twenty months is not enough, however much we can sympathize with the anger and pain. Murder cannot be the answer, and we need to send that message. It’s just too dangerous to open that.
This is qualitatively different from, say, am abused spouse. There there is a risk. Here it’s revenge. I agree the pain should merit some leniency – part of it was built into the plea, but even more – but I think the sentence should still have more teeth than twenty months. Life is valuable.
How many valuable lives had Gonzales taken by the time of his own demise? The children need a father and the terms being proposed for release hardly amount to total freedom.
If we are going there, murdered naturopaths may also have children who need fathers. I would completely have agreed with jailing the person who tricked the wife to her death. Murder is not the answer. I think taking a life for revenge should lead to at least several years in prison.
Otherwise, we are sending the wrong signal.
I tend to think that ‘sending signals’ is a task for an advertising agency more than for a court.
We do talk about messages or signals given by a court.
He has served time. The proposed terms of probabtion are not exactly letting him off the punishment curve.
Restorative or retributive justice? In my opinion, the former is clearly indicated here.
What a sad case all round. If there were robust regulations and such to protect the public from such quacks, a, they wouldn’t be harming and killing so many of their ‘patients’ (sic) and b no one would feel the only recourse left to them was taking matters into their own hands.
Its the failure of the state that is the real problem here. Let this man go home to his kids, he can still be made to atone for his actions by giving back to the community, he’s clearly no danger to the public.
Which include the barbarism of having death rows.
Better the aggrieved than a dozen nimrods (or fewer) and a random judge.
Ah, but I am reminded of a story.
@ doritmi December 6, 2018 at 12:59 pm
We do talk about messages or signals given by a court.
And who among the general population, let alone the criminal population sees or hears them? If you are a Bernie Madoff or a Conrad Black, other dubious financiers may pay some attention.
A fairly straight-forward murder by an unknown citizen in the USA? Not likely anyone noticed except a couple of reporters (and Orac).
Q. How is shock probation like Naturopathy.
A. Both processes have brought uncertainty to the concept of criminal intent and punishment.
The title of the post, “The case of Omer Ahmetovic: Naturopathy, cancer, tragedy, and homicide” is incorrect. Clearly, the sequence of events is as follows:
3) tragedy; and
Please consider changing the title to: The case of Omer Ahmetovic: Cancer, Naturopathy, tragedy, and homicide. 🙂
What makes you think that a time-ordered sequence of events should determine the title of an article?
You, correct Orac? SRSLY.
Where, oh where, did you ever study writing? Oh second thought, I don’t think I really want to know- it might be horrifying to learn that it was an actual school.
Did you ever consider that writers might put the topic they think most important first in order to illustrate the basic theme of the article? The article is about how Naturopathy delivers bad medical care and how tragic events might result from it.
Why do I even try? I’d be better understood by my semi-feral black cat.
The article is about how Naturopathy delivers bad medical care and how tragic events might result from it.
I respectfully disagree. In my opinion, the article is about Omer Ahmetovic and a personal bias that may have influenced his decision to commit homicide.
Juan Gonzalez’s passion was to save lives. If oncologists using science-based medicine were murdered based on failed cancer treatments, it would be equally tragic.
You butchered this post.
I respectfully suggest that you go take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut.
Had she used real medical care, it’s possible that her oncologists could have failed to save her. But that doesn’t mean that they would have failed to provide the best possible care according to our current knowledge.
Juan Gonzalez failed her utterly.
If you think you can do a better job than Orac, write the story up for your own blog–in your own words, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to plagiarize.
Reading these responses…I guess what I’m getting is that the courts are set up to answer these questions and judges go to school for years to figure it out, so I personally would let it rest there.
@ Christine Rose December 6, 2018 at 3:57 pm
judges go to school for years to figure it
Are judges in Kentucky elected?
Yes, they are. Kentucky law requires them to be licensed to practice law for at least eight years.
Christine, courts do exist to rule on matters of law. That doesn’t make them free from error, which is why we have multiple layers of judicial review culminating in the State Supreme Courts and the US Supreme Court.
It turns out that here’s an episode of The Closer involving the murder of a “holistic dietician.”
“Better the aggrieved than a dozen nimrods (or fewer) and a random judge.”
I guess you feel that jury duty is somehow beneath you (or maybe you’re not and are assessing your own participation), and that judges are just people randomly pulled in off the street. Sure, some judges are bad or incompetent, but that’s just the chance you take with any trade or profession. When you call for a cop, a paramedic, an appliance repairer, you take your chances. At least with a judge you have a lawyer between you and the court. The other way around – getting to choose your own judge, from Angie’s List or Yelp, maybe, is entirely unthinkable.
I don’t think anyone has come up with a better system than we have, and I’m sure you’re not proposing setting some standard of grievance that would allow someone to kill another and walk away.
Your guess is incorrect. Hell, I’ve had to travel three hours in each direction on one occasion when summoned to a distant part of Cook County. I have written letters explaining why I was unable to appear when I genuinely was not able to appear. And only once have I made it to voir dire (peremptoriy sent home because I have been the victim of violent crime). Otherwise, it’s just sitting around suffering the same damned video featuring Lester Holt for years.
I may or may not get to the rest after I simmer down, but make no mistake: If you kill my cat, you’re a marked man (pets are of couse chattel in civil court). I don’t much worry about the first part of “me and my own,” but the second half I take extremely seriously, and have done so for decades.
I worked in a county jail for two years, and a state prison for one year. They are horrible places. Ahmetovic hasn’t been living at summer camp.
What matters is his risk to re-offend. I don’t know how high that risk is, but if he doesn’t have a criminal history, then probably not high.
What bothers me is the claim of sexual assault. That sounds new; if so why wasn’t it raised before? Makes me question whether or not he is remorseful or understands that he didn’t have the right to kill Gonzalez no matter that Gonzalez is just as much a murderer in my view.
Wonder how Erin Elizabeth of HealthNutNews infamy might be reacting to news of possible probation for Gonzalez’s killer* (this case wound up on her list of Suspicious Holistic Doctor Deaths):
*”shock probation” has to be a ploy by Big Pharma to get their hit man out of jail.
**there are two Dr. Gonzalezes on the holistic practitioner hit list – the other being of course Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez.
Note the irony in this comment:
Apparently there is a list of naturopaths who allegedly died in mysterious circumstances with the implication that are being killed by pharmaceutical companies and medical organisations.
In other news:
The Stephans want $4 million from the Alberta government to cover their past and future legal fees.
There’s something that one doesn’t hear invoked much (viz., at all) nowadays. I’ll excuse the “via” as weakly defensible.
^Eh, I’m half-awake, sorry. I was referring to “closed-circuit television” but b0rk3d the HTML.
the answer should be a resounding NO,, he should fund his own defense from the snake oil company he owns, he’s been assessed as having too high an income to qualify for a provincially appointed lawyer. Though with hope this time some proper justice can be had for the child they killed and these child killers will get a significant jail term, their risk for re-offending must be astronomically high given how many other kids they have and how unrepentant they’ve been at killing their son.
CCTV is used a moderate amount here, usually in what might be regarded as procedural circumstances where there is no testimony as such involved. In this case I assume it was done either to accommodate the judge to save her a trip from Calgary to Grande Prairie, which would waste a day at least, or to accommodate the Stephans for similar reasons. Why it wasn’t heard before a “resident” Justice of Queen’s Bench in Grande Prairie, I have no idea.
I would not be entirely opposed to the Stephans recouping some of their costs of the original trial from the public purse, given that the Supreme Court of Canada ordered the retrial on a point of law. I would be totally opposed to granting them so much as a penny for pursuit of their claims of coverup or the rest of that nonsense. IF they could prove something like that, then damages might be appropriate, but that would be another trial altogether.
The term conjures up security cameras and little composite monitors* for me.
*One of which I have, for the RTTY decoder. My life is absurd.
Fair position, but I’m undecided so far. What happens if they don’t have counsel?
“CCTV” is doubtless just a hold-ever term, though I’ve never heard anything better that describes the intent. I can only guess at the method actually used.
I don’t know what would happen if they were to show up at the appointed date for the new trial without lawyers. I suspect this will go back before the Court at least once before the trial is set to begin.
I have absolutely no idea if the Court ever does what they are requesting. Since I’ve become a useless eater, I frequently at least skim the rulings of the Alberta courts and the Supreme Court (though federal Tax Court is more “fun”). I’ve been doing this for nearly two years and can’t recall anything similar. In civil matters the Court will sometimes require one of the litigants do make a deposit with the Court to assure the opposition doesn’t get financially screwed if they prevail.
In my opinion, what they are doing is a flagrant attempt to cow the Court and attempt an end run to avoid being retried. This is the kind of stuff that gets people designated as vexatious litigants if they pull it more than once.
I also suspect their alleged lack of assets has been contrived, which I think would also put them at peril. If they return to court with their begging bowl before the actual trial they might find themselves under close scrutiny in this regard and wind up getting nailed for the Crown’s costs for the extra work instead of going away with an order for appointment of layers at the public expense. The courts are not gullible and take a dim view of attempts to jerk them around.
But they’re not entitled to be a public defender, as we call it down here?
Narad, they get one if its proven they can’t afford their own, in this case it was deemed they had the resources to hire their own council.
I can unequivocally say that standard allocation medicine killed over 890000 people last year just with surgeries that were improperly conducted.
This does not include medical errors based on medications that were either incorrectly prescribed or medications whose side effects were severe enough to kill people.
At this point in contemporary American medical approaches to health care there is no future in standard treatment protocols. Oncologists get kickbacks on medications they prescribe. If that isn’t a conflict of interest as being criminal then I don’t know what is.
This is meant to be an attack on alternative health care and on people who truly care and want to see positive changes in our health care system. Nothing less.
Yah, and I can unequivocally state that a pseudonym of “E,Michael L” doesn’t exactly help what you apparently thought was a rebuttal. And, yes, I will leave it ar the ad hominem.
It is an article about a quack who killed, probably knowingly (he knew results of his therapy, certainly). a nice paragon for you.
Leading cause for mortality is actually heart disease, at 635260 (2016 number). 890000 is totally imaginary number, showing that you do not know anything.
“Saying unequivocally” is not the same as “saying truthfully”.
Is E,Michael L defending the incompetent and now dead scammer? Or would he prefer the party line that the now-dead scammer was not a True Naturopath?
Two years ago, the number for ” all deaths from medical error” that the grifters were pulling out of their butts was “quarter of a million”. Some entity called “Orac” blogged about it.
Now it has escalated to nearly a million from surgical errors alone! Crivens!
And all you holistic SCAM medicine has saved NO ONE.
What’s the likelihood he’s going to murder again? Pretty much zero.
@JDM December 6, 2018 at 10:27 pm
What’s the likelihood he’s going to murder again? Pretty much zero.
But we must remember that this is the US legal system. It is not particularly rational.
Is there any legal system rational?
It is mostly based on 2 or 3 things, revenge and prevention, either to prevent someone to get criminal again, or to prevent people to do something that is forbidden.
Would a completely rational legal system work?
People are not allowed to kill eachother, nor to take justice in their own hands. So we punish them, if they break this laws. One might say someone won’t kill again, but I think there still would be some punishment needed, if not to keep the person from killing again, then to serve as a reminder to others not to take justice in their own hands. Even if I sometimes can understand the motivation, I still think it is wrong to take someone’s life, even if I detest the person whose life is taken.
The Burr–Hamilton duel springs to mind.
A certain hospital I work at continues its descent into woo. It is offering a seminar entitled “Intro To Hands-On Polarity Energy Balancing”.
“Our future in energy medicine is in realizing that our current medical tests wait until the problem can be seen only in our physical body–blood tests, pap tests, chest x-rays, and brain scans. By the time we detect cancer in our bones, it is already a major problem.
But why wait until a disease manifests on a physical level? Why not prevent it? By becoming aware of different characteristics of energy pulses and energy patterns in the body we could map the way diseases alter these patterns and discover the problems on an energetic level before it manifests on a physical level. What an insight to disease control! Energy medicine practitioners can help the client sense distorted energy fields and locate the origin and reason for the pain.”
Why wait indeed?
Sometimes you just need to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow to get things back in place.
And in case you were wondering, polarity therapy was developed by a naturopath. Make sure that what you eat is of the proper polarity too.
“The Polarity Diets developed by Dr. Stone are in line with Naturopathic principles”
Wow, this is such a tragic story all around I’m not even sure what to say about it.. In a way I feel guilty because I don’t feel bad enough about the “doctor” being murdered.
Would Mr. Ahmetovic have killed his wife’s doctor had his wife died after conventional treatment? And would the murder be also considered by you (the author) to be “definitely understandable”?
I think the correct parallel would be to someone who provided medical treatment that was substantially sub-par. The issue here is misleading the patients away from real treatment and into fake. So for example, a real doctor who tricked a patient like this into not undergoing surgery in favor of an experimental treatment.
And yes, I think a real doctor failing a patient and misleading her this way, to her death, would be equivalent. In both cases, murder is an issue, but in both cases, we can understand the anger.
It’s not just a problem of bad result. It’s a problem of a bad result because of dishonesty, when a better result is avialable.
That said, one of my cautions here is that I am not sure that pain and anger would be less in someone whose family member was treated correctly if they did not understrand the treatment, and the results were bad. I think we should be very careful to make it clear that murder is wrong, period.
This is sad to hear! There is no cure for cancer, but I honestly believe that the closest we can get from removing it is surgery/chemo/radiation. Cancer is progressively aggressive and often times we are raising against time fighting it. I think for cancer patients that choose to go for an alternative therapy should be ever so careful with choosing the professional they work with.