Judge: Killer must be freed

No evidence shows that former dentist is a threat to society, associate justice says, adding that ‘he never intended to kill his victims.’

March 10, 2010|By Joseph Serna

A former Costa Mesa dentist who killed three people in the 1980s must be freed from prison unless there’s new evidence that he is still dangerous, the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana ruled Tuesday.

Writing for the three-judge panel, Associate Justice Raymond Ikola said that after serving more than 25 years of a 15-year to life sentence, Tony Protopappas, 63, should be granted parole.

In late 1982 and early 1983, Protopappas killed Kim Andreassen, 23, Cathryn Jones, 31, and Patricia Craven, 13, by giving them fatal doses of a general anesthetic. He was convicted of three counts of second-degree murder in 1984.


In the first years after his conviction, Protopappas continued to distance himself from the crimes and shifted responsibility to others for his lethally poor judgment.

But in his 2008 parole board hearing, Protopappas took responsibility and explained that he was arrogant and afraid of admitting he didn’t know what he was doing when he gave the three patients anesthesia.

Deputy Atty. Gen. Amy Roebuck argued last month that Protopappas still “lacked insight” into his crimes and continued to be a danger to society.

“But the attorney general does not explain how [Protopappas’] alleged lack of insight renders him a current threat to public safety,” Ikola wrote.

“Like some other members of the general unconfined populace, [Protopappas] may perhaps be proud, materialistic and self-centered. But personality traits of arrogance, greed and narcissism, without more, do not support incarceration.

“He has no mental disorders nor any history of violence and it is undisputed he never intended to kill his victims.”

Noting he could never practice dentistry again, the court ordered a new parole hearing for Protopappas as soon as the ruling became official and to free him at that hearing unless new evidence shows that he poses a danger.

Roebuck was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

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