Bodies to Be Exhumed in Hospital Death Probe
Signaling the long road ahead for investigators attempting to build a case against purported “Angel of Death” Efren Saldivar, police Monday announced plans to begin exhuming bodies “within the next month or two.”
In other developments Monday:
* Police said a list of potential victims, drawn from hundred of calls from worried relatives whose loved ones had either died in Glendale Adventist Medical Center or remained hospitalized there, had grown to 35
* Glendale Adventist Medical Center cleared 22 of 40 suspended respiratory therapists to return to work
* State officials plan to hold a hearing today to consider a permanent revocation of Saldivar’s license.
Saldivar, whose whereabouts have been a mystery for several days, was fired from Glendale Adventist Medical Center on March 6 after he allegedly confessed to the mercy killings of as many as 50 terminally ill patients. Saldivar’s brother, Eddie, told The Times in an interview Saturday that his brother has since denied making the confession.
Glendale Police Sgt. Rick Young said authorities planned to dig up “one or two” bodies in the next month or two in an effort to make a case against Saldivar.
“That’s all we need to put a murderer behind bars,” Young said. “I just need one [case] to put him behind bars.”
Young stressed that the list of potential victims was simply a starting point for investigators.
“There’s no suspicions,” he said. “We have no evidence that there’s foul play.”
Mark Newmyer, a spokesman for Glendale Adventist Medical Center, said the respiratory therapists who were cleared to return to work at the hospital have passed through a police investigation, an internal hospital probe, and yet another investigation by outside consultants hired by the hospital.
“We’re doing everything possible to ensure that this hospital is a safe environment,” he said.
Although the hospital has fielded 243 calls from people whose relatives have either died at the hospital or are patients there now, no one has attempted to transfer a loved one out of Glendale Adventist.
As police continued their investigation, the Los Angeles district attorney’s office said it had no new details about the scope of the case or the likelihood it will result in charges.
Meantime, Saldivar’s state license will be the subject of a suspension hearing today in Los Angeles when state officials will take the next step toward a permanent revocation of his license.
If Saldivar chooses not to attend the hearing, the proceedings will be continued to another date with the hospital worker’s license still on an interim suspension.
An official with the state respiratory care board, which is monitoring the case, said that Saldivar has made no contact regarding his license and has, to date, filed no papers regarding the challenge to his license.
Police have brought no charges against Saldivar, a 28-year-old Tujunga resident.
But in an affidavit filed by state regulators in an effort to suspend Saldivar’s respiratory care practitioner’s license, authorities contend that Saldivar confessed to hastening the deaths of 40 to 50 terminally ill patients at Glendale Adventist Medical Center.
In that affidavit, police said they taped an alleged confession in which Saldivar detailed how he suffocated or drugged patients that fit three specific criteria. He said the patients had to be unconscious, have given orders not to be resuscitated, and look like they were dying.
On Saturday, Eddie Saldivar told The Times that he had spoken to his brother by telephone and that he denied making a confession to police.
Times staff writers Greg Krikorian and Jill Leovy contributed to this story.