Dentist granted parole

COSTA MESA — A former Costa Mesa dentist convicted of killing three patients in his care can be released from prison, an appellate court has ruled.

A state Court of Appeal late Wednesday reinstated parole for Tony Protopappas, 66. The court order overturned Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's December decision to block a parole board recommendation to let Protopappas go, said the dentist's attorney, Rich Pfeiffer.

Protopappas was convicted of three counts of second-degree murder 26 years ago for killing three people in his dentist's chair during the early 1980s, according to Daily Pilot archives. In each case, he gave lethal doses of a general anesthetic and ignored numerous warning signs that their lives were in jeopardy. He was sentenced to 15 years to life and has been in prison ever since.

On Tuesday, a panel of judges from the 4th Appellate District's 3rd Division heard oral arguments challenging Schwarzenegger's decision.

Protopappas does not pose a threat to society, the court said.

Protopappas has served 26 years of his sentence for the death of Kim Andreassen, 23, Cathryn Jones, 31, and Patricia Craven, 13, who all died from fatal overdoses of general anesthetic.

Protopappas is eligible for release from Folsom prison in about two weeks, Pfeiffer said.

He will not be able to practice dentistry.

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