"He had that underlying type of get up and go, but I don't know how many irons he had in the fire. A couple here or there. He always seemed to be more or less looking for irons. He certainly seemed to have his nose in the air, like a bird dog, trying to sniff up something, anything that might come along that interested him that could make some money."

Morse recounts with fondness DeLong's female associate, whom Morse took to be married to the doctor. "She was wonderful, very warm, very intelligent. A very together woman," says Morse. "She could think very well. She was definitely a nice-looking girl, probably early 40s. I saw her with him in the clinic three or four times. I just assumed they were man and wife.

"She was absolutely a positive human being. To me they were both genuinely positive people. As a matter of fact, when I come in there, a couple of times when I was down about a couple of things that I had -- attacks on my website, lost money, been to see the FBI, and so forth -- she especially was quite positive about the type of approach that should be taken as far as just working your way through it and going on with your life."

DeLong and the woman, Morse says, were "absolutely 100 percent straight-and-narrow. They were very much into health as far as I could see. Drugs never even crossed my mind, nor did alcohol. We just talked about the positiveness of trying to get ahead.

"I met his son a couple weeks ago. He seemed like a product of the two of them. A very nice kid. I spoke with him the day Kent was killed and exclaimed on how well-mannered his kid was, because he reminded me of my boy. You don't see many boys like that running around."

The scene of DeLong's murder is a tiny strip mall on Midway Boulevard, just down the street from F Street, a dirty-book store, and a biker bar. A week after the killing, DeLong's storefront is locked up tight, but through the plate-glass window can be seen a gray-carpeted, neat waiting room, lined with display cases featuring a variety of boxes and bottles of "organic" and "herbal" weight-loss potions. Hanging over a white coat draped on the receptionist's chair is a stethoscope. A large painted sign on the glass says "DermaLasers, Laser Tattoo Removal, Laser Hair Removal, Laser Skin Rejuvenation. Most Reasonable Prices in Town. Walk-ins Welcome."

Taped to the front door is a typewritten three-by-five card listing the clinic's operating hours "Thursday, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, 12 p.m., to 3 p.m." Thursday has been scratched off and changed to Wednesday. DeLong also ran a clinic in Oceanside. Those hours are listed as "Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.." A woman who works at the typewriter-repair shop next door says that after DeLong was forced to give up his Fen-Phen business, traffic had fallen off. "They used to be lined up around the block," she says. "Now, it's okay. Just not that crowded."

The woman says that, owing to his infrequent hours at the clinic, DeLong was not well known to his neighbors at the strip mall. "He was tall, didn't dress formal. We used to get mail delivered here by mistake, and he'd come by and pick it up. That was about the only time we'd see him."

The woman's boss, a small Hispanic man of about 40 wearing brown designer slacks, says he was the one who first noticed that a tire on DeLong's van, parked along the back wall of the strip mall, had been deflated. "I walked over and told him about it. He went back there, I thought, to change it." Not long after, about 6:15, the neighbors say, they heard "popping noises" emanating from the alley between the strip mall and a store called "Comics 'n' Stuff." DeLong's body, slumped over the steering wheel in his still-idling van, went unnoticed until 20 minutes later, when someone from the comic store happened by and made the discovery. "I expected that he'd change the tire back there," the typewriter-shop owner says, "but instead I guess he was trying to drive over to the tire shop on the flat. That really ruins your tires, you know. They caught him in the alley as he was driving out."

One who thinks that DeLong's involvement with Fen-Phen might have provided the killer a motive is San Diego attorney William Dougherty, who represented many former patients in lawsuits against the doctor.

"I have heard that he was the largest distributor of Fen-Phen products in California. Now whether that's true or not, I don't know. I also had a number of clients tell me that he would refer to it as the 'Golden Pill.' I don't know if that was golden for him or golden for the client. Now I'm realizing it was probably golden for him."

According to Dougherty, most of the Fen-Phen cases have already been settled out of court or are on the verge of settlement. American Home Products, maker of the drug, is picking up the multibillion-dollar cost of the settlement and indemnifying the physicians who prescribed the medication. But money, Dougherty says, may not be enough to satisfy some angry ex-patients.

"This is sheer speculation, but some people did have some relatively serious physical problems resulting from Fen-Phen, or at least it appeared that the taking of the Fen-Phen and serious problems coincided." Dougherty continues. "And I suspect it might well be some disgruntled person who maybe had watched a loved one -- although I didn't recall anyone really dying from the use of this -- but the only thing I can think of is, yeah, someone took this stuff and figured they got ripped off, they got sick, whatever, so they blamed it on the doctor.

"Of course, the other explanation would be some disgruntled employee along the way, but he had had so many different clinics, it would be difficult to keep up with who might have a real bitch against the guy. I suspect that Fen-Phen was a very small part of his operation. It looked to me what he was doing was he'd set up the clinic, then he'd hire other doctors, pay 'em by the hour, whatever, he'd get retired doctors to come in and actually dispense the medications."

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