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Saldivar charged with 6 murders

Amber Willard

GLENDALE -- Hours after Efren Saldivar, a former hospital employee

accused of killing terminally ill patients, was charged with six counts

of murder Wednesday, the hospital where he worked admitted two of his

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alleged victims died after it had begun an internal investigation of him.

Saldivar is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges this afternoon in

Glendale court. At a press conference Wednesday morning to announce the

charges against Saldivar, newly elected Los Angeles County Dist. Atty.

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Steve Cooley said his office had not yet decided if it would seek the

death penalty for the 31-year-old man.

That afternoon, officials at Glendale Memorial Medical Center held a

press conference to explain their investigation, as well other elements.

“There was no evidence available to the hospital at that time that

allowed us to determine anything suspicious or out of the ordinary was

happening,” said Mark Newmyer, spokesman for Glendale Adventist Medical

Center, when talking about two patients who died at the hospital during

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its internal investigation. He would not name the patients.

Of the six listed victims, the only two to die after the hospital

started its investigation in April 1997 were Balbino Castro and Myrtle

Brower. They died less than two weeks apart in August 1997, according to

information released by prosecutors.

The other alleged victims -- Jose Alfaro, Salbi Asatryan, Luina

Schidlowski and Eleanora Schlegel -- all died less than two weeks after

being admitted to the hospital in 1996 and 1997. They ranged in age from

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75 to 87, prosecutors said.

Their families could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

In defense of the hospital’s investigation, Newmyer said that even

after Saldivar allegedly confessed to Glendale Police, the department’s

investigation lasted nearly three years and included exhuming 20 bodies.

What police found in their investigation, which cost $300,000, not

including the salaries of an investigation team, was announced Tuesday.

Tissue samples from six bodies, along with other evidence, show Saldivar

killed the patients, authorities said.

Saldivar was a respiratory care therapist at Glendale Adventist from

1989 to 1998, when he was fired as Glendale Police started their

investigation. He was also employed at Glendale Memorial Medical Center

from 1991 to 1994 and Methodist Hospital of Souther California in Arcadia

from 1990 to 1992. Hospital spokespeople said there was no evidence to

suggest wrongdoing during those times.

Glendale Adventist started its internal investigation in 1997 after

rumors of misconduct concerning Saldivar arose.

“Our internal investigation was ongoing; it never stopped,” Newmyer

said Wednesday. Glendale Police were notified of the allegations in March

1998, after another rumor surfaced.

Saldivar allegedly confessed to killing as many as 50 terminally ill

patients but recanted later on national television interviews.

Saldivar, who was being held Wednesday without bail, was arrested

Tuesday morning as he drove to work from his Tujunga home. Prosecutors

filed six murder charges against him Wednesday morning that carries two

special circumstances -- murder by poisoning and multiple murder -- that

make him eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

Police focused on six patients after researchers at Lawrence Livermore

National Laboratory found the drug Pavulon in their systems. Five of the

patients did not receive any Pavulon, a muscle relaxant commonly used

before surgery to stop normal breathing and begin artificial means like

ventilators, during their legitimate medical treatment, prosecutors said.

“To this day, we have no idea how or where Saldivar may have obtained

the drugs he claimed he used,” Newmyer said.

During his alleged confession, Saldivar said he injected Pavulon and

succinylcholine into patients to stop their breathing, officials said.

The drug Versed, a sedative, was recently found during a search of

Saldivar’s home, officials said. Because of that discovery, Saldivar was

also charged with receiving stolen property.

ALLEGED VICTIMS

* Jose Alfaro, 82 -- admitted on Jan. 2, 1997 and died two days later.

* Salbi Asatryan, 75 -- admitted on Dec. 27, 1996 and died three days

later.

* Myrtle Brower, 84 -- admitted Aug. 18, 1997 and died 10 days later.

* Balbino Castro, 87 -- admitted Aug. 6, 1997 and died nine days

later.

* Luina Schidlowski, 87 -- admitted Jan. 20, 1997 and died two days

later.

* Eleanora Schlegel, 77 -- admitted Dec. 30, 1996 and died three days

later.


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