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CNN Today

'Angel of Death' Arrested

Aired January 9, 2001 - 2:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Los Angeles-area police plan to outline charges today against a former hospital worker suspected in dozens of deaths.

CNN's Jim Hill joins us now from Glendale, California with a case of a man known as the "Angel of Death." -- Jim.

JIM HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Lou. This suspect they have dubbed the so-called "Angel of Death" is now behind bars here in Glendale, California. He was arrested early this morning by police following an investigation that has spanned almost three years. It will be three years, this March 11.

It was in March of 1998 that Efren Saldivar allegedly confessed to Glendale police that he had murdered up to 50 elderly, terminally ill patients in Glendale Adventis Medical Center, where he worked as a respiratory therapist from the years 1989 to 1997.

Now, he later recanted that confession, and said he didn't kill anybody, but during the alleged confession to police, authorities say that Saldivar admitted that he used overdoses of either Pavulon (ph) or a drug called SUCC, both of them muscle relaxants, to administer them in overdose fashion, thereby paralyzing the respiratory systems of patients and causing their suffocation. And he allegedly did that as a form of mercy killing, because he felt sorry for them.

Well, there was no evidence at the time to substantiate this, one way or another, and, of course, Saldivar recanted his confession. So, police released him at that time without changes, and now, almost three years later, they have arrested him. They did so, they say, when he was on his way to work at, apparently, a non-hospital job this morning, and they have charged him with murder.

We are awaiting a news conference, 2:00 Pacific time, to learn the details of just what evidence police have. Over the past three years, apparently, they have exhumed up to 20 bodies to look for evidence. They have also interviewed many, many people.

In addition to this, there have been at least two civil lawsuits filed against Saldivar by people who believed their elderly relatives may have been killed by him. Those are civil cases. Now, Saldivar, as I say, has been free ever since then. He was fired from his job at the hospital and his license to practice was revoked. So, he is no longer in hospital work. And, of course, now, is behind bars -- Lou. WATERS: All right, Jim Hill. -- Natalie.

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