Convict looking at work options

COSTA MESA — Tony Protopappas, the former dentist who killed three people in his chair and recently qualified for parole, plans to get back into dentistry. But this time, he shall not have direct contact with patients, his attorney said.

Protopappas has been working with three dentists while serving a sentence of 15 years to life, attorney Rich Pfeiffer said. The parole conditions, if finalized months from now, would allow Protopappas to work in a dental lab.

"He can't be a dentist, but he can work...away from his patients," Pfeiffer said. "That's what he plans on doing."

The state parole board on Wednesday found Protopappas suitable for release after his serving more than 25 years. The Court of Appeal had urged the board to parole him unless there was evidence that the 65-year-old was still a threat to society.

Pfeiffer said Wednesday's hearing showed no negative news, with "a new psychological evaluation that got even better, and people who worked with him concentrated on his work ethic."

In late 1982 and early 1983, Protopappas killed three people, including a 13-year-old-girl, by giving them fatal doses of a general anesthetic in his dental office. He was abusing drugs at the time and was not licensed to administer the anesthetic.

Protopappas was convicted of three counts of second-degree murder in 1984. Since then, he's accepted responsibility, sobered up and set up a plan for his life outside of prison, the Court of Appeal found.

The parole board has 120 days to review its decision, after which the governor has 30 days to amend it, kick it back to the board or reverse its decision.

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