‘Monster’ Serial Killer Gets Life for Murdering 7 Vets at VA Hospital

·3 min read
John Moore/Getty
John Moore/Getty

Former nursing assistant Reta Mays received seven consecutive life sentences on Tuesday for murdering seven elderly veterans at a West Virginia VA hospital.

Mays, 46, pleaded guilty last year to killing her victims by giving them lethal doses of insulin. The case exposed a rash of institutional failures at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, Virginia, that investigators say allowed Mays to prey freely on her patients.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Kleeh called Mays—who was sentenced to an additional 20 years for the attempted murder of an eighth patient— “the monster no one sees coming.”

Mom Was Convicted of Killing 4 Kids Over 10 Years. Scientists Now Say She’s Innocent.

In June 2018, Mays had been working the overnight shift for months at the VA hospital, when doctors employed there began to suspect something was wrong on Ward 3A. A series of elderly patients had died that spring under odd circumstances, three of them in as many days. Their deaths had all been precipitated by sudden, unexplained drops in blood sugar, but some were not even diabetic. By the end of the month, the hospital administrator put in a call to the VA headquarters, letting them know they might have an “angel of death” on their hands, according to USA Today.

Mays, who had been working at the hospital since 2015, initially escaped notice. USA Today reports that, according to prosecutors, she even alerted staff that the patients were in danger. According to prosecutors, Mays once said, “Something always happens when I’m in the room, and I don’t know why,” as hospital staff frantically worked to save one of her victims, according to WOWKTV. Prosecutors said in one instance Mays performed chest compressions on her victim for more than half an hour, complaining to her husband later that her arms “felt like rubber” from the exertion.

By July, Mays had been identified as a person of interest in the case and was removed from her position. Investigators concluded that her killing spree began almost a full year earlier, with the death of Robert Edge Sr., an 82-year-old Navy veteran who suffered from dementia in the summer of 2017. Judge Kleeh explained how Mays had searched “female serial killers” on her work computer, and watched the Netflix show Nurses Who Kill after the death of her first victim.

After Tuesday’s sentencing, the VA’s inspector general released a statement describing the results of an investigation that found “serious and pervasive clinical and administrative failures” that allowed Mays to go unnoticed, mirroring the conclusions of a 2019 USA Today investigation.

VA administrators had failed to follow-up on issues flagged during a background check on Mays, including a West Virginia inmate who accused her in 2012, when she was employed as a correctional officer, of having been one of a group of CO’s who beat him. The hospital’s insulin, which investigators say Mays would spontaneously decide to kill her victims with, was kept in an unlocked fridge or on unguarded carts in the hospital’s hallways, and staff failed to administer tests that could have detected the deadly levels of insulin in her victims’ blood. “Had facility leaders and managers escalated and pursued these adverse events sooner, additional lives might have been saved,” the report stated.

Mays will serve the rest of her life in prison, with no possibility of parole. She has also been ordered to pay restitution to the families of her victims. Speaking ahead of her sentencing, Robert Edge Jr. the son of her first victim, addressed Mays to talk about his father.

“Growing up, he was my hero,” USA Today quoted Edge as saying. “He took care of me when I was little, and when it was time for me to take care of him, you took that away from me.”

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