A Pennsylvania nurse already charged with killing two patients in her care through lethal doses of insulin has been hit with fresh charges after she confessed to trying to kill 19 people at different rehabilitation centers where she worked, prosecutors announced Thursday.
Heather Pressdee, 41, allegedly administered excessive amounts of insulin to 19 patients — some of whom were diabetic and others not — at five different care facilities from 2020 to this year. Ultimately, 17 patients in her care have died, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office said.
As a result, new charges were filed against her Thursday: two counts of first-degree murder, 17 counts of attempted murder and 19 counts of neglect of a care-dependent person, in connection with the 19 patients she allegedly mistreated, Attorney General Michelle Henry said.
Prosecutors noted that Pressdee was charged with first-degree murder in cases where “physical evidence is available to support the cause of death,” and attempted murder in cases where the victims either survived the excessive dose of insulin or the cause of death could not be determined.
She had already been charged in May for allegedly mistreating three patients, two of whom died, bringing the total number of allegedly mistreated patients to 22.
Pressdee would typically administer the insulin during overnight shifts when there was low staffing and the emergencies “would not prompt immediate hospitalization,” prosecutors said.
“If Pressdee sensed the victim would ‘pull through’ there is a pattern of her taking additional measures to try to kill the victims before they could be sent to the hospital by either administering a second dose of insulin or the use of an air embolism to ensure death,” the criminal complaint in the case said.
The alleged victims ranged in age from 43 to 104.
The complaint said Pressdee, whose nursing license has been suspended, “admitted to harming, with the intent to kill, all patients named in this affidavit.”
The two first-degree murder charges are in connection with two patient deaths at Sunnyview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
On March 24-25, 2021, she allegedly intentionally administered insulin and an air embolism to a patient, identified by the initials G.S., with the intent to kill him and which ultimately caused his death, the complaint said.
Then on April 30-May 1, 2023, she administered insulin to a patient with the initials N.C., also leading to their death, the complaint said.
The alleged abuse unfolded while Pressdee was employed as a registered nurse at Concordia at Rebecca Residence; Belair Healthcare and Rehabilitation; Quality Life Services - Chicora; Premier Armstrong Rehabilitation and Nursing Center; and Sunnyview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Pressdee was arraigned Thursday, waived her preliminary hearing, and remains in custody at Butler County Prison without bail.
It's not clear if she has entered a plea.
Her attorneys, Jim DePasquale and Phil DiLucente, told NBC News Friday that their goal is to avoid the death penalty.
“This a very complex and serious matter. Ms. Pressdee had her formal arraignment yesterday on the first set of charges, previously filed by the PA Attorney General’s office and in addition had her preliminary hearing on the new set of homicide and attempted homicide charges," the statement said. "The goal from the very beginning of these matters was to not have the death penalty imposed. We are in pursuit of that goal.”
Authorities started watching Pressdee after a family member of a patient who died told the Bureau of Narcotics Investigation and Drug Control that Pressdee was involved in the improper administration of insulin at Quality Life Service - Chicora. An investigation found Pressdee had a “pattern” of being investigated for “abusive behavior towards patients and/or staff” at her past jobs, “resulting in Pressdee then resigning or being terminated,” the complaint said.
The filing revealed that former co-workers told investigators there were suspicions during Pressdee’s previous employment that she was “intentionally harming patients” and she had been “reprimanded for making up her own insulin doses.”
When she worked at Belair Healthcare and Rehabilitation, from April 2021 to February 2022, as an assistant director of nursing, she was suspended pending an internal investigation into co-worker concerns regarding “a pattern of individuals passing under Pressdee’s care.” However, that probe did not uncover any identifiable evidence to support those allegations.