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CNN Today

'Angel of Death' Behind Bars After Three Years

Aired January 9, 2001 - 4:40 p.m. ET

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

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Police in California today arrested a man who's been called the "Angel of Death," a former hospital worker who is suspected in the deaths of dozens of patients at the Glendale Adventist Medical Center. CNN's Jim Hill is in Glendale now with the latest there -- Jim.

Jim Hill?

JIM HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We are here in Glendale, California where police are about to hold a news conference announcing the arrest of the so-called "Angel of Death." This is a man who has been under investigation for between two and half and three years now, arrested this morning. This is the mug shot police are handing out in here Glendale, California. Arrested about 5:40 a.m. after nearly three years of investigation.

Let me give you background on this man. On August -- rather, March 11, 1998, he allegedly confessed to Glendale police that he killed up to 50 people, while he was working as a respiratory therapist at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, not too far from the police station here in Glendale, California. He said that he worked there between the years of 1989 and 1997; and during that time administered overdoses of drugs to terminally ill patients because he felt sorry for them.

Now, he later recanted that alleged admission to police. Police said, without corroborating evidence, that they had no choice but to release him without charges, which they did in March of 1998. Now, almost three years later, they have arrested him. Police say, in the process of the investigation over the last few years, they have interviewed hundreds of people as well as, exhumed or dug up 20 bodies of people who have died at Glendale Adventist Medical Center and were re-autopsied, essentially to find evidence if there was any foul play or drug overdoses involved.

The man's arrest this morning, identified as 30 year-old Efren Saldivar, whose picture I just should you, now brings this investigation to a close. He is jail, now charged with murder. We hope in a news conference, a short time from now, to learn how many charges of murder -- Joie.

CHEN: Jim, I understand nearly three years -- I mean, have they been keeping an eye on this guy throughout this time? What happened here in the investigation? How could it take so long? HILL: Well, he was released in 1998 -- March of 1998, because police said, they had no grounds to hold him. He was essentially released without any charges having been filed. That made him a free man. He was not released on bail. He really had no tie with authorities at that point. He was free to go, but of course, he did remain in this area, and was arrested at 5:45 this morning, according to police, in this general area, while on his way to work.

We're told that he was working at a nonhospital function -- we're not given any details of that, but after his alleged confession in 1998, he was fired by the hospital where he worked, and his license to practice respiratory therapy was revoked by the state of California. So, he has not been working in the hospital industry in this area, but has apparently remained here free -- free of any charges, but was picked up this morning after this investigation, which, of course, has gone on for between two and a half and three years.

CHEN: CNN's Jim Hill for us in Glendale, California.

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