Saldivar was born in Brownsville, Texas in 1969. His parents, Alfredo and Isaura, moved into the country from Mexico so their children could be born as U.S. citizens. They later moved to Los Angeles, where Alfredo hoped to find work as a handyman and Isaura worked as a seamstress. In school, Saldivar was very extroverted and a decent student, though he idolized the high school gangs he watched while in junior high. When he himself started attending high school, he was overweight and had trouble fitting in. His first job was at a supermarket, from which he often stole things. His grades ultimately dropped so badly that he couldn't graduate. After seeing a friend who studied at the College of Medical and Dental Careers, Saldivar took a liking to his uniform and decided to pursue the same line of studies. After taking and passing a high school equivalency test, he enrolled in the school as well in 1988. After a year of studies, aged 19, he earned his certificate and got a job as a respiratory therapist at the Glendale Adventist Medical Center. He became well-liked at work and was known to be competent and reliable. For some time, he took Zoloft as treatment for depression, but eventually stopped.
Killings and Incarceration
Exactly how many people Saldivar killed is unknown. While he only has six confirmed victims, he claimed to have killed over 50 and may have been responsible for as many as over 120 murders. In 1997, a coworker had also reported him, claiming to have seen him inject something into the IVs of his patients. Since there was no noticable rise in deaths during Saldivar's shifts, no formal investigation was carried out at the time, partly because the man who filed the claim had been known to have some animosity towards him. People first became seriously suspicious of him when some other respiratory therapists, as a practical joke, pried his locker open to hide someone else's clothes inside. Inside that locker, they found a stash of drugs, including morphine, succinylcholine chloride, and Pavulon, a muscle relaxant used to stop the breathing rhythms of patients going onto a respirator, drugs respiratory therapists weren't allowed access to. In 1998, one of the therapists mentioned the incident to a man in a bar, Grant Brossus. He decided to try and blackmail the hospital by threatening to tell the police about the find. Fortunately, the hospital did call the police, but also investigated the claim on their own. Though Brossus had a long criminal record for drug dealing and auto theft, the police looked into the tip. When confronted, Brossus came clean about what he had done.
When the police learned that Saldivar had been reported, they approached him. During questioning, he folded and started confessing to injecting patients; the first one, he claimed, was when he was 19 and had been a terminal cancer patient. After his arrest, Saldivar continued talking and confessing, claiming to have killed no more than a little over 50 people, initially claiming his victim count ranged in the 40s. When no drugs were found during a search of his home, he was released, but the hospital fired him based on his confession. The police started sifting through the 1000+ patient deaths that had occured during Saldivar's shifts and spent a year narrowing the number down to the most suspicious ones, such as when the patients had seemed fairly healthy, and the ones that hadn't been cremated, making it impossible to check their cadavers for drugs. Of the 20 bodies of such patients that were exhumed, six of them, aged 75-87, were found to have lethal amounts of Pavulon in their systems. By January 2001, the police had built a case against Saldivar. In 2002, he pleaded guilty to all six murders in exchange for being sentenced to six consecutive life terms and an additional 15 years for attempted murder rather than the death penalty.
Like most Angels of Death, Saldivar targeted patients he treated at work and killed them by poisoning their IVs with drugs. As a precaution, he specifically targeted patients who were unconscious or near death; he prided himself with only killing patients who had a DNR order. He is known to have used Pavulon, a muscle relaxant, but is also believed to have used morphine, a painkiller; and suxamethonium chloride, another muscle relaxant.
Note: This section lists only the murders for which Saldivar was convicted. He is suspected to have killed more than 50 victims.
- December 30, 1996: Salbi Asatryan, 75
- January 2: Eleanora Schlegel, 77
- January 4: Jose Alfaro, 82
- January 22: Luina Schidlowski, 87
- August 15: Balbino Castro, 87
- August 28: Myrtle Brower, 84