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
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.
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
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
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.
* 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
* Myrtle Brower, 84 -- admitted Aug. 18, 1997 and died 10 days later.
* Balbino Castro, 87 -- admitted Aug. 6, 1997 and died nine days
* Luina Schidlowski, 87 -- admitted Jan. 20, 1997 and died two days
* Eleanora Schlegel, 77 -- admitted Dec. 30, 1996 and died three days