A former nursing assistant at a VA hospital in West Virginia admitted to murdering seven elderly veterans and attempted to kill an eighth according to court documents.
Reta Mays, 46, who formerly worked at the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center, pleaded guilty to seven counts of second-degree murder related to the deaths of seven veterans and one count of assault with intent to commit murder in West Virginia federal court.
The judge acknowledged her guilty plea and ordered U.S. Marshals to hold Mays without bail until a sentencing hearing is scheduled.
Mays worked as the overnight shift assistant in the medical-surgical unit at Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the city of Clarksburg. An investigation found that between July 2017 and June 2018 she administered doses of insulin to patients; most of them were not diabetic. Because of the insulin injections, the patients’ blood sugar dropped, causing severe hypoglycemia. The patients were all in the VA hospital for various symptoms related to old age.
Court documents state that in June of 2018, a doctor at the hospital in Clarksburg, West Virginia, became alarmed about the deaths of multiple non-diabetic patients, who had suffered unexplained hypoglycemic episodes in Ward 3A of the hospital.
Mays, as a nursing assistant was responsible for, among other things, acting as a one-on-one sitter for patients, checking vital signs, and testing blood sugar levels. Yet, she was not allowed to administer medicine, including insulin.
Back in August, the Department of Veterans Affairs had announced that it had begun an investigation of 11 suspicious deaths at the facility and was looking into “potential wrongdoing.” Within a matter of days of learning of the deaths, VA investigating agents identified Mays as a person of interest. Working with medical facility leaders, the defendant was immediately removed from patient care while the investigation continued.
“Immediately upon discovering these serious allegations, Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center leadership brought them to the attention of the VA’s inspector general while putting safeguards in place to ensure the safety of each and every one of our patients,” a VA spokesperson said at the time.
Following Tuesday’s hearing, the VA Office of the Inspector General after Tuesday’s released the following statement: “This case is particularly shocking because these deaths were at the hands of a nursing assistant who was entrusted with providing compassionate and supportive care to veterans. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims.”
The U.S. attorney prosecuting the case characterized Mays’s actions as “evil” and an FBI special agent involved in the case said the veterans were betrayed.
“Nothing we have done will bring your loved ones back,” Bill Powell, U.S. attorney in West Virginia, said at a press conference. “But we do hope that the work of these agents and prosecutors honored the memory of your loved ones in a way that they so justly deserved and, in some small fashion, assuage the anguish you have suffered.”
“These eight veterans deserved respect and honor. They served our country and we all owe them a debt of gratitude,” FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman said. “They didn’t deserve to die at the hands of a nursing assistant who intentionally inflicted pain on them and their families.”
The court documents identified the deceased patients as Robert Edge, 82; Robert Kozul, 89; Archie Edgell, 84; George Shaw, 81; W.A.H., 96; Felix McDermott, 82; and Raymond Golden, 88.
An eighth patient identified as R.R.P., 88, recovered after being given Dextrose 50.
The VA Inspector General’s Office is also investigating the hospital’s policies and procedures, including medication management and communications among the hospital’s staff as to how this situation could have occurred.
While Mays has pleaded guilty in court in connection with the deaths of the patients, her motive for killing the patients is still a mystery. Mays may also be investigated in connection with other deaths at the facility.