The nurse killed seven with overdoses of insulin.
82-year-old Robert Edge Sr. was a man known for his love of his family, the outdoors, and working with his hands. He served with honor in the military. His family did not worry about sending him to the Louis A. Johnson Veterans’ Administration Medical Center when the long, arduous fight with dementia took its inevitable turn. Their dad had more than earned top-notch medical care as the sun set on his life well-lived.
They could not have anticipated that dementia was the least of their worries at the V.A.
A literal “Angel of Death” was creeping through the hospital. Her black wings would drag seven of the patients to the grave before their time.
I. The VA and the Serial Killer
Reta Mays was a 46-year-old nursing assistant with the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Administration Medical Center. She would plead guilty to seven counts of 2nd-degree murder in July of 2020 after she injected 8 patients with an insulin overdose at the hospital. Seven died, one recovered.
This kind of hypoglycemia is a horrible way to die. You become comatose, sometimes seize uncontrollably, and are ultimately annihilated by the brain damage that occurs.
Mays likely chose this method because it is typically difficult to find with a cursory examination of the dead.
II. Timeline of the Crimes
Robert Edge Sr. was the first known victim of Reta Mays when she injected him either July 19 or July 20 in 2017.
Robert Kozul would be killed in the same fashion when Mays injected him on January 28 or 29, 2018.
April 3 or 4, 2018 a patient with the initials W.A.H. was killed. Mays killed Felix McDermott on April 8 or 9.
Raymond Golden was the next victim on June 3 or 4.
On June 17 or 18, 2018 a patient identified as R.R.P. was injected and died July 3 at a nursing facility. The medical examiner, in this case, could not confirm insulin as the cause of death.
Mays was fired from the V.A. in July of 2018.
III. “The Angel of Death” in Criminology
“The Angel of Death” is a distinct phenomenon in the annals of crime and serial murder. It does follow the organized/disorganized dichotomy typical to serial murder though most Angels of Death tend toward the organized versus the more sloppy, disorganized type.
The Angel is a doctor, nurse, or caregiver who purposely kills the charges they have in their care. This could be done several ways – from an air embolus in the vein, to lethal doses of pain or heart medication, to a whole smattering of other drugs or even straight starvation.
Motivation varies greatly. Many are of the ‘deluded hero’ type where they inject the patient with drugs causing a heart attack or another type of code, then rush into the room to save the patient. This is all done in a sick effort to appear the hero – much like the arsonist who starts the fire in the beautiful woman’s house then rushes in to save her. This type is often also called “the malignant hero”. Richard Angelo is a quintessential example of this type.
It can also be done for the most banal of motives: the financial. Dr. Linda Hazzard, the “Starvation Doctor”, was found guilty of forgery and various other grafts, fleecing her patients as they starved themselves to death in her “hospital” in hopes of being cured of all sorts of ailments from rheumatism to tuberculosis. She would kill around a dozen people.
Then there is “the Angel of Mercy” who kills because they have convinced themselves it benefits the victim or sometimes the family, in sparing them the agony of watching their loved one die slowly. Many times, the Angel of Mercy can be subconsciously working out old trauma like watching a parent or grandparent expire slowly. See nurse Donald Harvey, who claimed 90 victims, as an example.
This category of serial killer is not immune from sexual motivation either. Sadistic Angels of Death kill their charges because they get pleasure from the act itself and the power it gives them over another person. In this way, they are not much different from lust murderers like Ted Bundy. They just are a bit more guarded in how they kill – which can be a sign of a higher level of reasoning or organization.
Jane Toppan fits this category to a tee. Toppan was a nurse in late 1800s Boston who killed with atropine and morphine. In her confession, she admitted she achieved sexual pleasure from crawling into bed with her dying patients and watching as the life slowly left their eyes. She confessed to killing 31 but is suspected in hundreds of deaths.
Watch this space for more Mays' sentencing as we hear it.
Journalist and dogged student of all things forensic, Wess Haubrich, examines the nitty, gritty details you didn’t know about famous (and not so famous but equally weird) crimes and their unseen motivations. Thanks for reading!
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