Parole for dentist denied

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has rejected parole for a Costa Mesa dentist who killed three people in his chair from 1983 to 1984, in spite of opinions from a panel of appellate court judges and a state parole board that the convict should be released.

On Dec. 15, Schwarzenegger overturned the parole board's recommendation to free Tony Protopappas, 65, who has served more than 25 years of his 15-to-life sentence on three second-degree murder convictions.

In late 1983 and early 1984, Protopappas gave fatal doses of a general anesthetic to Kim Andreassen, 23, Cathryn Jones, 31, and Patricia Craven, 13, in his Costa Mesa dentist's office. Protopappas was using narcotics heavily at the time and wasn't licensed to administer the drug.

The governor's decision wasn't a surprise to Protopappas' attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, who earlier this year predicted this would happen if Protopappas was granted parole.

"The only thing that has changed since the court's last opinion is Tony got a much more favorable psychological evaluation and has continued to take positive steps in his journey through rehabilitation," Pfeiffer wrote in an e-mail.

After the parole board initially rejected Protopappas' release in 2008, the Court of Appeal in Santa Ana in March ordered the board to reexamine its decision. The three-judge panel found that Protopappas was sober, accepted responsibility and was not a danger to the public because he could no longer practice dentistry. The parole board granted him his freedom in July.

Pfeiffer has filed another petition with the Court of Appeal to overturn Schwarzenegger's decision. Proposition 89, adopted by Californians in 1988, gives the governor the power to single-handedly reverse parole decisions in murder cases only.

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