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Fired VA Employee, Facing Allegations of Poisoning Patients, Pleads Guilty to Seven Counts of Murder

VA facility first flagged the suspicious deaths two years ago.

A former Veterans Affairs Department employee pleaded guilty on Tuesday to seven counts of murder after federal prosecutors accused her of poisoning veterans in her care with insulin. 

Reta Mays, a nursing assistant at the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia, from 2015 until she was removed from her position in 2018, is facing charges of giving fatal doses of insulin to patients. Mays pleaded guilty to giving the insulin, a medication for diabetics, to patients in the wrong amount or to those without prescriptions for it at all. As a nursing assistant, Mays was not authorized to administer any medications to patients. 

In 2018, a doctor at the Clarksburg facility sounded the alarm on a number of patients in Mays’ ward dying from hypoglycemia, which results from too much insulin. The facility quickly notified the VA inspector general, which eventually led to a criminal investigation. 

The case has drawn scrutiny from federal lawmakers in West Virginia and attention from Attorney General Bill Barr. VA Inspector General Michael Missal said in August 2019 his office was working with federal law enforcement partners “to investigate the allegations of potential wrongdoing resulting in patient deaths.” 

At the time, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said federal prosecutors were investigating 11 suspicious deaths. Mays faces seven counts of second-degree murder and an eigth count of assault with intention to commit murder. Prosecutors identified Robert Edge Sr., Robert Kozul, Archie Edgell, George Shaw, Felix McDermott, Raymond Golden and an individual called only W.A.H. as Mays’ victims. 

Mays accepted a plea deal with federal prosecutors on Tuesday in which she pleaded guilty to all eight counts during a court appearance. 

The reports came to light after an attorney representing the daughter of a retired Army sergeant who died at the facility on April 9, 2018, filed a claim with VA. The IG ordered the remains of that individual exhumed for further investigation, the attorney said. The claim served as advanced notice of a pending lawsuit for at least $6 million.

The charging documents, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District for West Virginia, where Mays entered her plea on Tuesday, noted the Clarksburg medical center removed Mays “from a position of patient care” in July 2018. Wesley Walls, a spokesman for the VA facility, said last year the ongoing investigation did not involve any current employee at the Clarksburg center. Walls confirmed on Tuesday Mays has been fired. 

“We’re glad the Department of Justice stepped in to push this investigation across the finish line and hopeful our court system will deliver the justice Clarksburg-area veterans and families deserve,” Walls said. 

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