Nearly a year after our last update on this story and courts officially released documents tied to the West Virginia VA hospital murders, a judge decided the accused nurse will spend the rest of her natural-born life in prison. The nurse was accused and confessed to injecting US military veterans with lethal doses of insulin just to watch them die.
West Virginia public broadcasting announced that Rita Mays, 46 of Reynoldsville, West Virginia, was handed seven life sentences plus 20 years during a sentencing hearing on Tuesday.
Mays admitted in July to seven counts of second-degree murder and one count of assault with intent to murder veterans seeking care at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center. According to prosecutors, Mays unnecessarily injected veterans with insulin, causing sudden hypoglycemic events that ultimately led to the deaths.
Some people would argue that life in prison was not a strong enough punishment for the brutal deaths of military service members. It's me, I'm "some people". Reports show that at least 30 family members of victims showed up to witness Mays's sentencing with many being given the opportunity to address Mays directly.
UPDATE: July 2020: The suspect in the infamous West Virginia VA murders information has finally been released. Court documents show that Reta Mays, who worked at the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Clarksburg for almost three years, pleaded guilty to seven counts of second-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the deaths of eight patients in 2017 and 2018.
Autopsies showed that the victims were given a lethal amount of insulin. Each victim was on the road to recovery for various ailments before suddenly taking a turn for the worse, leaving families broken and confused. The suspicious deaths led families to investigate the cause of their loved ones' deaths when the autopsy report revealed the grizzly details. Patients suffered hypoglycemia, seizures, coma, and then death at the hands of their trusted caretaker.
According to MilitaryTimes, at least 26 family members attended Tuesday’s hearing, filling the small West Virginia courtroom. Numerous others watched the proceedings via an internet stream made available because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The victims were all more than 80 years old, and included individuals who served in the Vietnam War, the Korean War and World War II.
Mays, 45, spoke little during the hearing but tearfully acknowledged her guilt multiple times. She told the judge she is currently taking medication for post-traumatic stress disorder, but did not offer any more details of that diagnosis.
Records show that Mays offered no other motive to why she injected her victims with a fatal dose of insulin.
The case is far from over as questions still remain as to what amount of blame is due to hospital administrators. Families of the soldiers threw up red flags at the hospital early on but Mays was allowed to continue for some time before being placed on administrative leave pending the investigation.
The courts intend to get to the bottom of Mays' possible motives while the courts determine exactly how many victims Mays might have had.
As promised, we're keeping an eye on the deaths that took place at one West Virginia VA Hospital. One such death was ruled a homicide but several others have been linked and are awaiting determination. Thus far, investigators have been able to determine multiple cases of patients receiving lethal doses of insulin. Some of those patients were not even diabetic.
Investigators are looking into about 10 separate cases of patients who arrived with minor issues and died under similar circumstances.
Authorities have still yet to name the nurse they deemed a 'person of interest' in the case. That person has been removed from the hospital's staff but that hasn't eased the pain of the loved ones involved.
What investigators have uncovered is mind-blowing. While attempting to review surveillance footage and drug logs for the insulin used, investigators found that both were non-existent. Where hospitals are required to keep logs of every drug administered, authorities found that there were not consistent logs on insulin. More disturbing than that is the fact there the wing in question didn't have adequate camera coverage of that floor. Making conditions perfect for such a crime.
So, the hospital wasn't tracking the drug used properly and didn't have cameras on that wing? Something tells me that if these deaths were, in fact, intentional, the person(s) who committed them must have known that.
According to USA Today, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the agency is reviewing staffing levels and whether more can be done to prevent similar incidents. He called the string of deaths a "national tragedy."
By the time hospital officials notified authorities in June 2018, there had been at least eight suspicious deaths, and veterans had been embalmed and buried, destroying potential evidence. In one case, a veteran had been cremated.
In the case of 82-year-old Felix "Kirk" McDermott, no autopsy had been performed and there was no indication in medical records reviewed by USA TODAY that doctors ordered key blood tests that could have detected the unprescribed insulin investigators now suspect was coursing through his veins.
A doctor did order those blood tests in another case – that of George Nelson Shaw who died the day after McDermott, on April 10.
Shaw, 81, had been admitted in March after feeling tired and dehydrated. Four days later, on the morning of March 26, his blood sugar crashed, records show.
Between 7:20 a.m. and 8:40 a.m., his blood-sugar ranged from 17 to 30 milligrams per deciliter, less than half the level requiring immediate medical attention. Then, shortly after 9 a.m., blood tests for insulin and a key protein showed both within a normal range, records show.
About a month later, two more veteran's bodies who died in a similar fashion were exhumed. Both were determined to have died from acute low blood sugar from too much insulin. One man had 4 different injection sites on his body. All 4 locations tested positive for insulin.