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'Angel of Death' charged with murder in serial killing of six patients

Efren Saldivar
Saldivar allegedly told police in 1998 that he was angry at seeing terminally ill patients kept alive, so he killed them. He later recanted  

GLENDALE, California (CNN) -- Police said they arrested a former respiratory therapist at Glendale Adventist Hospital early Tuesday in the killings of at least six patients.

Efren Saldivar will be arraigned in Glendale Municipal Court on murder charges Thursday in at least six deaths, Police Chief Russell Silverling told an afternoon news conference.

Silverling said investigators from a variety of law enforcement agencies tracked 171 cases where people died under suspicious circumstances over 2 1/2 years. Of those, 54 bodies had been cremated, leaving 117 cases to be investigated, he said.

Authorities disinterred 20 bodies in five cemeteries and concluded that they had sufficient evidence to link Saldivar to six of those 20 deaths, Silverling said. All six were Glendale Adventist patients.

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"There is always the possibility that this investigation could open up in different ways," he said when asked if police could file additional charges against Saldivar, who is 30 or 31 years old, and whether he might have killed patients at other hospitals.

Saldivar was arrested at 5:45 a.m. while on his way to work, Silverling said, adding Saldivar was working as an electrician's apprentice. Saldivar was being held without bail.

Police refused to identify the victims or say how they died.

Police spokesman Rick Young said investigators reviewed 2,000 medical charts and spent more than $300,000 since the probe began in March 1998.

Asked why it took police this long to charge Saldivar, Silverling said that for an investigation of such complexity and involving so many victims, "Quite honestly, this isn't a really long investigation. ... We wanted to be thorough, get to the truth of the matter. Balancing that with expediency has been a goal of ours."

Saldivar, accused of killing elderly patients possibly through drug injections, had been dubbed the "Angel of Death" after he confessed to killing as many as 50 patients at the hospital.

He later recanted that confession and police lacked the necessary evidence to charge him with any crimes.

Salvidar, who is single and lived alone, was fired the hospital March 13, 1998.

The hospital suspended 38 employees in the early stage of the investigation -- all but six of whom were later reinstated. Four others also were fired and one quit.



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