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Police Prepare to Exhume Bodies in Hospital Probe

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Detectives investigating the alleged mercy killings by fired Glendale hospital worker Efren Saldivar are gearing up to begin exhuming the bodies of possible victims as early as next month, a police spokesman said Tuesday.

Aiding investigators in the case is Dr. Michael Baden, a prominent New York pathologist who testified for the defense during the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

Investigators are examining a pool of several hundred cases in which Saldivar had contact with patients who died soon afterward, Sgt. Rick Young said.

Young said investigators are in the process of ranking the cases, starting with the deaths they believe Saldivar is most likely to have caused. Sources said investigators would begin by exhuming about a dozen bodies.

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Detectives recently completed the first phase of their investigation, in which they pored over the hospital records of possible victims, Young said. Now detectives are interviewing all of the doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel who had contact with any of the possible victims. The family members of those patients will also be interviewed, Young said.

Baden, who bills up to $1,500 a day for his services, has “met with us a few times,” Young said.

“He is giving us technical advice in this very difficult case,” Young said. “He let us know that we are heading in the right direction.”

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Young’s comments offer a glimpse at the scope of the police investigation, which has been conducted in secrecy for the past two months.

Police began investigating Saldivar in March after receiving a tip that a hospital worker had been killing patients. During an interview, police said, Saldivar confessed to being an “angel of death,” who had killed 40 or 50 terminally ill patients.

In the ensuing publicity, Saldivar appeared on two nationally televised news magazine shows and recanted the confession, telling viewers that he fabricated the story because he was suicidal and wanted the death penalty.

Police said they believe at least one slaying took place, although investigators do not have sufficient evidence to make an arrest.

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Saldivar, who was fired, along with four colleagues, has not been charged with any crime.

After news of Saldivar’s purported confession became public, the hospital was deluged with calls from concerned family members of patients who had died there. The hospital launched its own investigation, assembling a team of retired physicians to examine files of those patients whom callers had inquired about.

Seven cases were deemed suspicious and referred to the police for further investigation.


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