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Former VA staffer admits to killing 7 elderly vets with insulin at West Virginia hospital

Reta Mays, 46, admitted injecting veterans with insulin, causing severe hypoglycemia.
Image: Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center
An exterior view of the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, W.Va., on July 14, 2020.Gene J. Puskar / AP

A former nursing assistant admitted to murdering seven elderly veterans and trying to kill an eighth at a West Virginia hospital, court documents show.

Reta Mays, 46, pleaded guilty to seven counts of second-degree murder and one count of assault with intent to commit murder, according to documents filed in West Virginia federal court.

According to the documents, Mays was a former night shift assistant in the medical surgical unit at Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the city of Clarksburg.

The documents say that between July 2017 and June 2018 she administered doses of the hormone insulin to patients who mostly either weren’t diabetic or didn’t need it. Their blood sugar dropped, causing severe hypoglycemia, the documents say.

The documents identified the 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 documents say.

Mays’ lawyers did not respond to a request for comment about Mays’ motives.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, U.S. Attorney for West Virginia’s Northern District William Powell said it wasn’t clear why Mays killed the patients.

“She denied it for a long time until most recently when she finally recognized the strength of our case,” he said.

He said the killings were initially detected after doctors noticed an “unusual” series of hypoglycemic deaths in the area. Asked if the hospital should have recognized the deaths earlier, Powell said the Department of Veterans Affairs cares for “lots of sick, elderly patients. It probably wasn’t as easy as it might sound.”

He added that once the deaths were noticed, doctors immediately contacted the department’s inspector general, who began an investigation.

Veterans Affairs Inspector General Michael Missal told reporters an investigation into how the cases were handled will look at medication management and staff communication.