Reta Mays is a former nursing assistant at the Clarksburg VA Medical Center in West Virginia who on Tuesday, July 14, pleaded guilty to killing seven veterans through insulin injections between 2017 and 2018. The second-degree murder charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison, WCHS reported.
She also pleaded guilty to assault with the intent to murder another veteran, according to her plea agreement.
The charges against May, 46, were unsealed Tuesday before she pleaded, and followed a two-year federal investigation, West Virginia Metro News reported.
U.S. Attorney Bill Powell told reporters Tuesday that the investigation eventually came down to who was present during one-on-one appointments at which the patients were given insulin. Although Mays denied the charges until July 13, Powell said, “Ultimately it led to her in every instance.”
Here’s what you need to know about Mays and the murders she pleaded guilty to:
1. Mays Was a Nursing Assistant at the Medical Center When, Prosecutors Say, She Murdered at Least 7 Veterans via Insulin Injections
According to Mays’ federal charging document, she started working at the VA Hospital in June 2015; she worked the night shift in a surgical ward, dealing with a number of diabetic patients. In June 2018, another employee at the medical center brought concerns to their supervisor about several patients who suffered hypoglycemic deaths — a condition of low blood sugar caused by being injected with too much insulin. An investigation commenced, and Mays was removed from her role, according to the document.
Mays was never authorized or licensed to administer insulin to patients, according to a Department of Justice release.
There were 11 total suspicious deaths of veterans at the medical center, although Mays was only charged in seven, WSOC TV reported.
Shen admitted to injecting an eighth veteran, who later died, with insulin, as well.
2. The Daughter of a Victim Filed a Civil Suit Against the Medical Center
Melanie Proctor, the daughter of retired Army Sergeant Felix McDermott, filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against U.S. Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs on March 2, alleging her late father suffered a hypoglycemic attack early on the morning of April 9, 2018, and died, although his cause of death was recorded as aspiration pneumonia with sepsis.
Proctor alleged a “widespread system of failures” at the medical center, with leadership not doing anything about the “abnormally high number of patients experiencing sudden unexpected declines” on the floor where Mays worked. The rate of hypoglycemic episodes was unheard of in the hospital industry, according to her complaint.
Proctor alleged that someone must have known something was going on in the medical center, with a “clear pattern” of patients on the floor experiencing a severe decline, then dying, before her father’s death in April 2018.
A spokesman for the medical center in March declined to comment on the suit to the Associated Press but said that they had “fired the individual at the center” of Proctor’s claims.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has filed a motion to dismiss himself as defendant in the suit, and it is currently scheduled for a jury trial in September 2021, according to court documents.
3. Mays Signed a Plea Agreement Admitting to the Murders of Robert Edge Sr., Robert Kozul, Archie Edgell, George Shaw, Felix McDermott, Raymond Golden & an Unnamed Veteran
According to her plea agreement, Mays admitted to the murders of six named veterans, as well as two who were identified only by their initials.
Around July 20, 2017, she injected Robert Edge Sr., 82, with insulin, according to the agreement. Edge was diabetic but had not been prescribed insulin; he suffered a “severe hypoglycemic event” and died the following afternoon, according to the document.
Robert Kozul, 89, was not diabetic, but during a night shift in January 2018, Mays injected him with enough insulin to cause hypoglycemia, according to the document. He died early the next morning, despite hospital staff’s best efforts.
Archie Edgell, 84, was diabetic but also not prescribed insulin, and Mays injected him with insulin twice in March 2018, according to her plea agreement. She first administered it to him during the night shift of March 23, then again the next night, after hospital staff tried to stabilize him with dextrose. He died on March 25.
The night of March 25, Mays also injected George Shaw, 81, with insulin, even though he was not diabetic, according to the document. He was treated with dextrose and Glucagon, according to the document, but he was unable to recover and died on April 10, 2018.
Felix McDermott, 82, also was not diabetic when Mays injected him during the night shift on April 8, 2018. He died the next morning.
Raymond Golden, 88, was diabetic and required a specific type and dosage of insulin, according to the document. During the night shift on June 3, Mays injected him with enough to cause a hypoglycemic event and he died four days later.
The seventh victim Mays admitted to murdering was identified in court documents only by the initials W.A.H. She also pleaded guilty to a charge of assault against a person identified as R.R.P., who prosecutors said died two weeks after being injected with insulin by Mays, according to local ABC affiliate WCHS.
Mays was crying in court when she heard each name called and pleaded guilty to each death on Tuesday, WCHS reported.
Powell told reporters that Mays did not offer up any motive for the killings, the outlet reported.
4. Mays Could Serve a Life Sentence for Each of the 7 Murder Pleas & 20 Years on the Assault With Intent Charge
According to her plea agreement, Mays faces up to a life sentence on each murder charge she pleaded guilty to, as well as a $250,000 fine. On the assault with intent to commit murder charge, she could be sentenced to another 20 years and another $250,000 fine.
After her plea, Powell told reporters, “Though we can’t bring these men back, because of her evil acts, we hope the conclusion of the investigation and guilty plea helps ease the pain of the victims’ families,” WSOC TV reported.
Although she has pleaded guilty, the case will continue as prosecutors and her defense attorneys uncover more of the circumstances, West Virginia Metro News reported. A status conference was scheduled for October and Mays was remanded to West Virginia’s Northern Regional Jail, according to the report.
5. Senator Joe Manchin Had Pressed Attorney General William Barr to Fast-Track the Investigation & Said Tuesday, ‘Justice Is Finally Being Served’
West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who serves on the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, said he followed the case closely as soon as he heard about it in July 2018, repeatedly calling on the inspector general and FBI to finish their investigation as soon as possible.
He also called for his Senate committee to investigate but was asked to put any Senate investigation on hold until the criminal case was complete, Manchin said in a release Tuesday.
“My heart goes out to the families and loved ones who tragically lost a Veteran and have had to endure this injustice,” Manchin said. “While overdue, today justice is finally being served. I hope today’s announcement brings some semblance of peace to their hearts and to the families who are still uncertain about the fate of their Veterans.”
Heavy reached out to Mays’ defense attorney for comment Tuesday but did not hear back by the time of publication.