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District Attorney Announces Filing of
Capital Murder Charges in Hospital Deaths

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JANUARY  10, 2001
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contacts: Joe Scott, Director of Communications
Sandi Gibbons, Public Information Officer
(213) 974-3525
 

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LOS ANGELES -- District Attorney Steve Cooley announced today that a former Glendale Adventist Medical Center respiratory therapist has been charged with murdering six elderly patients who died in 1996 and 1997.

"After years of hard work, the combined efforts of both the Glendale Police Department and the District Attorney's Office have paid off in the filing of charges against Efren Salvidar," Cooley said.

He said the criminal complaint filed this morning in Glendale Superior Court alleges that all six victims were poisoned, a special circumstance under California law. The complaint also alleged a second special circumstance of multiple murder.

The District Attorney said his office will not make a determination on whether to seek the death penalty against the 31-year-old Saldivar (dob 9-30-69) until after a preliminary hearing of the evidence against him. Saldivar, of Tujunga, was arrested by Glendale police early Tuesday. He is being held without bail and is expected to be arraigned at 10 a.m. tomorrow in Division 1 of Glendale Superior Court, 600 E. Broadway, Glendale.

Cooley said that results of tests done on the exhumed bodies of the victims, coupled with recently discovered evidence found in Saldivar's home, led Deputy District Attorney Al MacKenzie to file the seven-count criminal complaint (case No. GA 044958). Besides, the six murder counts, Saldivar is charged with receiving stolen property, identified as a drug called Versed, which generally is used to induce sleep in patients.

The case has been under investigation by Glendale police since February 1998. In March 1998, Saldivar was questioned by police but released pending completion of the investigation.

MacKenzie said that during the investigation, 20 bodies of patients who had died at the hospital were exhumed and tissue samples were taken by the Los Angeles County coroner's office. Toxicological testing was performed on the tissue samples by Dr. Brian D. Andresen of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the drug Pavulon was found in the remains of the six victims named in the complaint filed today. The finding was reviewed by another leading toxicologist, Dr. Graham Jones, who concurred with Dr. Andresen's opinion.

All of the six deaths had been listed as suspicious, MacKenzie said. And of the six, five did not receive any Pavulon as part of their legitimate medical treatment prior to their deaths, he said.

The victims were identified as:

Jose Alfaro, 82, who was 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.
Cooley said that Deputy District Attorney Brian Kelberg, in charge of the Medico-Legal Section, worked closely with Glendale police in an advisory capacity during the investigation. The District Attorney said it was Kelberg who helped guide Glendale investigators through the delicate process of having the bodies exhumed and examined.

In late November, Cooley said he asked MacKenzie to take a look at the case. MacKenzie, skilled in prosecuting technical medical cases, had worked before with Glendale police in the successful prosecution of a Dr. Richard Boggs, a physician, and two others in an insurance fraud murder in which the victim's body had been cremated some time before the case was filed.


 
 
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