'Angel of Death' Sentenced to 6 Life Terms
From Associated Press
Ex-hospital respiratory therapist Efren Saldivar, the self-proclaimed "Angel of Death," was sentenced today to six consecutive life terms for the deaths of six patients at Glendale Adventist Medical Center.
Before he was led away, Saldivar apologized to the victims' relatives, some of whom were in a downtown courtroom to hear Judge Lance Ito hand down the sentence.
"I am deeply ashamed by the fear, frustration and pain that these and other families have had to endure," said Saldivar, 32, who admitted poisoning elderly patients while he worked at the facility in the mid-1990s.
"I know there is nothing I can say today that can soothe their anger or bring relier... However, I want to say, that I am sorry. I am truly sorry. I ask for their forgiveness, though I don't expect any."
As part of a plea bargain that kept him from death row, Saldivar also pleaded guilty March 12 to the six murders and to the attempted murder of another patient and the special circumstance allegations of multiple murder and murder by poisoning.
Prosecutors agreed to drop one count of receiving stolen property, the sedative Versed, found during a search of Saldivar's Tujunga home.
Saldivar's lawyer, Verah Bradford, said last month that Saldivar had chosen "to admit guilt not to avoid punishment, but rather to accept responsibility and, importantly, to bring closure to the family members of the decedents, and, of course, finally now to, in his mind, make peace with God."
Referring to himself as an "angel of death," Saldivar told Glendale police that he killed patients with deadly injections to spare them agony. He later retracted the confession, saying he had been depressed and had wanted official assistance to end his life.
Prosecutors agreed to accept the guilty plea after weighing the evidence, including his admissions about the murders, his recanting of those admissions and then his "readmissions of the killings after the murder case was filed against him last year," according to the District Attorney's Office.
Prosecutors said Saldivar used the muscle relaxer Pavulon to kill the six elderly patients at Glendale Adventist in 1996 and 1997, and injected the drug into 59-year-old patient Jean Coyle, who survived.
The bodies of 20 hospital patients were exhumed in 1999, and Saldivar was arrested in January 2001, when District Attorney Steve Cooley announced that tests conducted at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory had found Pavulon in the tissues of six of them.
Those victims were Jose Alfaro, 82; Salbi Asatryan, 75; Myrtle Brower, 84; Balbino Castro, 87; Luina Schidlowski, 87; and Eleanora Schlegel, 77.
Authorities say it may never be known how many patients Saldivar actually killed.
Pavulon, which suppresses natural breathing, is used to keep patients from gagging when breathing tubes are inserted into their throats. Respiratory therapists are not authorized to administer Pavulon, one of the drugs used to execute condemned inmates.