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California's 'Angel of death' pleads guilty to 6 deaths, gets life

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- A former Los Angeles area hospital worker dubbed the "Angel of death" pleaded guilty Tuesday to six counts of murdering elderly patients in a plea bargain that will spare him the death penalty.

Efren Saldivar, who allegedly confessed to 50 hospital deaths in 1998 but later recanted the confession, entered a plea of guilty in a Los Angeles court to six counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder.

Saldivar, a former respiratory therapist at a Glendale, Calif., hospital, was arrested in January 2001 for allegedly killing terminally ill patients in 1997 and 1998.


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Judge Lance Ito accepted the plea, which will send Saldivar to prison for life without parole, but allows him to avoid the death penalty.

Saldivar, who worked at Glendale Adventis Medical Center for almost 10 years, allegedly confessed to police that he had killed up to 50 terminally ill elderly patients at the medical center. He said he did this over his years working at there, which ran from 1989 to 1997.

At the time of the confession -- which Saldivar later recanted -- police said they had no additional evidence and therefore could not charge him based on his confession alone. But they launched an investigation that led to his arrest last year.

Saldivar allegedly used overdoses of two muscle relaxants -- one of them called Pavulon and the other one called succinylcholine chloride, commonly known as SUCC -- to shut down the respiratory systems of patients, essentially suffocating them.

The charges against Saldivar carried two special circumstances -- one for multiple murders and the second for using poison.




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