CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. - A former doctor suspected in a string of poisoning deaths on two continents pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing three patients in a Long Island hospital and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Prosecutors said Michael Swango killed for pleasure, and they read entries from a handwritten journal in which he mused about ''the sweet, husky, close smell of indoor homicide.'' Another entry suggested that murder was ''the only way I have of reminding myself that I'm still alive.''
Swango, 45, pleaded guilty to three counts of murder in a plea bargain that spared him the possibility of the death penalty. He was accused of giving lethal injections to three patients in 1993 at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Northport.
He also pleaded guilty to lying on his resume to get medical jobs.
Swango also is suspected of poisoning patients in Zimbabwe and served time in prison for poisoning co-workers in Illinois. A book about him, ''Blind Eye: The Story of a Doctor who Got Away with Murder,'' suggests that Swango may have killed as many as 35 patients as he moved from hospital to hospital, lying about his background.
According to the book, Swango was dubbed ''Double-0 Swango'' by classmates at Southern Illinois University Medical School, who joked that he had a ''license to kill'' just like James Bond, Agent 007, after several of his cases ended in death.
Under the plea bargain, Swango will return to Ohio to acknowledge the murder of a 19-year-old gymnast killed in 1984 by a dose of potassium at Ohio State University's hospital. As part of the plea agreement, Zimbabwe agreed not to pursue charges.
''I just hope Michael spends the rest of his life in a living hell,'' said Carol Fisher, whose father, Thomas Sammarco, was one of Swango's Long Island victims.
''Unfortunately, there are maniacs like Swango in this world,'' said Rosalinda Conroy, whose stepfather, George Siano, was murdered. ''You just don't think they're going to be your doctor.''
After the 1984 death in Ohio, Swango returned to his Quincy, Ill., home and worked as an emergency medical technician. That job ended with his conviction for lacing co-workers' coffee and doughnuts with ant poison. Five of them became ill, and Swango served two years. He also lost his medical license.
In 1993, he landed a residency in New York state by lying on his job application. He was dismissed him after his record became public knowledge, and he went to Africa. Within a year, patients in a Zimbabwe hospital showed signs of poisoning.
He was suspended there in 1995, and was arrested two years later in Chicago as he was boarding a flight to Saudi Arabia for a new medical job.