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Preliminary hearing set in hospital deaths

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- A preliminary hearing was set Tuesday for a Southern California hospital worker who confessed to killing at least 40 patients, a confession he later recanted.

A hearing date of October 17 was scheduled for Efren Saldivar, the hospital worker who at one point proclaimed himself the "angel of death."

Saldivar is charged with six counts of special circumstances murder in the deaths of elderly patients. He appeared in Los Angeles County Superior Court briefly Tuesday morning with his attorney, Verah Bradford.


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The attorney for the prosecution, Albert Mackenzie, estimated the preliminary hearing could take at least 30 days.

Police in Glendale said Saldivar, who was working as a respiratory therapist at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, confessed on March 11, 1998, to killing 40 to 50 patients by administering overdoses of muscle-relaxing drugs that essentially shut down their respiratory systems.

Glendale is a suburban community north of Los Angeles. Saldivar later recanted his confession.

Police said the investigation has included exhumation of 20 bodies to test the tissue for the presence of the drugs Saldivar said he used to kill them.


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