Minute-by-minute UPDATES from U.S. District Court in Clarksburg, W.Va.:
-8:54 a.m. Wearing an orange jumpsuit, Reta Mays was led into the courtroom in handcuffs. Lawyers for both sides are assembled at their respective tables.
-9:01 a.m. U.S. District Judge Thomas Kleeh has entered the courtroom.
-9:01 a.m. Mays has been sworn-in.
-9:03 a.m. Judge Kleeh explains that more people are allowed in the courtroom than has been normal during the COVID-19 pandemic. A spillover viewing room and a Zoom link are also available. Judge Kleeh reminded everyone that the Zoom link cannot be recorded or re-broadcast.
-9:08 a.m. Judge Kleeh accepts Mays’ July 2020 guilty plea, convicting her on all charges.
-9:11 a.m. Kleeh is going over the sentencing guidelines for each charge, explaining that each is adjusted by “two,” because Mays knew or should’ve known that her victims were vulnerable.
-9:17 a.m. Sentencing guidelines call for a sentence of 30 years to life on each murder charge, with no probation eligibility, Kleeh says.
-9:20 a.m. Victim impact statements are set to start.
-9:23 a.m. Kleeh lists off written statements the court has received from Mays’ mother, as well as from widows, children and grandchildren of Mays’ victims and 13 anonymous hand-written letters.
-9:26 a.m. The court is playing the recorded statement of Robert Edge, Jr., the son of a victim Robert Edge, Sr. Mays deprived nine grandkids and 13 great-grandkids of his love, Edge, Jr. said. “I do not forgive you. I would punish you with my own hands if it would do any good. I want you to experience what death feels like.”
-9:31 a.m. Becky Kozul is speaking in the courtroom for victim Robert Kozul, describing him as a “true gentleman,” who loved life. He never got to meet his first great-granddaughter, Kozul said. “Why should you ever be let out of prison?” Kozul asks Mays.
-9:36 a.m. A court official is wiping down the witness stand between each witness.
-9:37 a.m. Melanie Proctor, daughter of victim Felix McDermott is now on the stand, describing him as “an ornery character who would give anyone a helping hand.” Mays’ actions deprived him of choosing when he wanted to pass and has taken away any faith the family had in the VA system, Proctor said. She asked Kleeh to sentence Mays to life on each sentence. “You are a coward,” she tells Mays and continues that Mays she should tell the truth about other potential victims.
-9:41 a.m. Norma Shaw, widow of victim George Shaw, gives a statement via recorded video. Shaw “became a man trapped in his own body,” following Mays’ actions, his widow says. The family initially believed his death was of natural causes. After an autopsy, the family had to keep the homicide discovery a secret for a year, Shaw says. He left behind dozens of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. “He was everything to me. In my heart I know I need to forgive her for what she did, and someday I will, but not today. I know that judgement will come one day.”
-9:49 a.m. Steve and Amanda Edgell, son and daughter-in-law of victim Archie Edgell have taken the stand together. “He is not defined by how he died,” Amanda says. Archie Edgell’s wife died a year after his death, most likely from grief, continued Amanda. “We will forever miss him. I will never understand why you, Mrs. Mays, decided to play God,” Amanda stated. The family has felt guilt for taking him to the hospital in the first place, she said. Amanda described talking with Mays for hours in the hospital and feels guilty for not knowing what Mays was doing. She also described the pain of having to have their loved one’s body exhumed. “What gave you the right to decide to take him from his loved ones?” she asked Mays.
-10:05 a.m. Judge Kleeh calls for a 10 minute break to allow U.S. Attorneys to see if any other family members would like to speak.
-10:17 a.m. Judge Kleeh has reconvened the hearing.
-10:19 a.m. Mays, in tears, prepares to give a statement. “There’s no words I can say that can offer the families any comfort. I can only say I’m sorry for the pain I caused them and my family.”
-10:21 a.m. Mays’ attorney describes her military service and that she suffered from mental health issues and was being treated, herself, at the Clarksburg VA. He blames the VA for allowing her to care for patients. On the topic of a motive, defense attorneys said: “Reta doesn’t know why, no one knows why.” Mays counsel lists her medical issues: postpartum depression, depression, urinary incontinence, and then PTSD and military sexual trauma(MST), following an attack while serving in Iraq. He also described minor physical attacks she suffered at the hands of VA patients, which triggered her mental issues, he said. In one incident, Mays was knocked unconscious by a punch to the face by a VA patient and while in the emergency room, is diagnosed by a number of mental issues. After a 2017 incident, Mays told a doctor that she was “afraid that she might hurt someone.” Mays was taking a number of medications for her mental issues during the time of the VA killings, her attorney said. Also during the time of the killings, her husband was sent to prison and her children were suffering from drug issues, attorneys detailed. They conclude by asking for a sentence on the lower end of the scale.
-10:33 a.m. U.S. Attorneys read the names of the eight victims in this case. They ask for seven life sentences , plus 20 years. “Any reason the defendant gives is woefully inadequate,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Douglas said. Douglas went on to describe the symptoms someone might feel when injected with insulin, as Mays’s victims were, and then gave specifics of the ways each victim suffered. Having seen them before, Mays knew what symptoms were to come when she gave the injections, Douglas said. Speaking against the idea of mercy killings, Douglas explained that many of the victims were on the road to being discharged from the hospital. “The patients did not go here to die. They did not need mercy,” Douglas said. Mays answered virtually all of the government’s questions, per her plea agreement, Douglas noted. “Something always happens when I’m in the room and I don’t know why,” Mays was heard saying after injecting insulin into one of the victims. Douglas described the pain of life-saving efforts the victims had to endure after Mays’ injections, some of which family members watched. A government expert says Mays’ PTSD had no bearing on her actions. Mays did not confess during her first law enforcement interview, in July 2018, which would’ve prevented hours upon hours of investigation and the exhumation of the victims’ bodies.
-10:56 a.m. Judge Kleeh has ordered a second 10 minute recess.
-11:05 a.m. Judge Kleeh reconvened the hearing.
-11:07 a.m. Judge Kleeh tells Mays she murdered the victims, reading their names and their military service records. “Many, if not all, were considered members of the Greatest Generation,” Kleeh said. During an interview with U.S. Attorney’s, Mays said she was “trying to help, but it was not my call.” Kleeh agreed: “It wasn’t your call.” The victims “were entitled to the best care this country can offer,” and had “almost reached the end of their journey,” said Kleeh. Mays watched episodes of a Netflix series, Nurses Who Kill, after killing her first victim, Kleeh described. During the period of the killings, Mays also googled “female serial killers,” from her work computer, Kleeh said. Mays lied to investigators three times about her role in the deaths, Kleeh said. “There’s no explanation or justification here for what you did,” the judge told Mays. “You’re not special,” Kleeh continued, in reference to her mental health issues. Many others Kleeh sees in his courtroom, come from much worse circumstances than Mays has dealt with and some overcome their obstacles, he said. “None of these other folks are killers, let alone serial killers,” said Kleeh. “You stole that impact(of grandparents) from these people,” Kleeh said to Mays. “Without question the VA is responsible for their own institutional failures here,” but not for Mays’ homicidal actions, Kleeh said. Insulin was laying on top of medical carts, a nurse told investigators, “but no one could envision something as horrific as this,” Kleeh said, telling Mays she had “weaponized medication and used it as an instrument of death.” “There’s nothing we can do to bring you the closure and the justice you deserve,” Judge Kleeh said to the families of the victims.
-11:46 a.m. “You’re the worst kind. You’re the monster no one see’s coming,” Kleeh told Mays as he sentenced her to life in prison on all seven counts consecutively, plus 20 years, with credit for time served. Finding that she could not pay a fine, Kleeh waived one in this case. Mays, will however, have to pay restitution to each of the victim’s families, as well as to the VA, several insurance providers, another company and the Knights of Columbus in the amount of $172,624.96. Mays has 14 days to appeal the sentence, although she waived most of her rights to appeal in her plea agreement, Kleeh explained.
12:00 p.m. Mays’ attorneys asked that Judge Kleeh recommend that she be sent to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ Federal Medical Center Carswell, in Texas, which has a mental health unit. With no objection from U.S. Attorneys, Kleeh agreed.
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Reta Mays, the Harrison County woman who admitted to killing seven patients at the Louis A Johnson VA Medical Center, in Clarksburg, is set to be sentenced for her crimes, during a hearing at 9:00 a.m. this morning.
Mays pleaded guilty to seven counts of second degree murder and one count of assault with intent to commit murder in July 2020, admitting to injecting all of them with unneeded insulin.
She was originally scheduled to be sentenced in February 2021, but her lawyers successfully argued that the sentencing be moved to today.
Prior to U.S. District Judge Thomas Kleeh handing down Mays’ sentence, the court will hear victim impact statements from family members of Mays’ victims. As recently as yesterday, lawyers for Mays and U.S. Attorneys were involved in a dispute over the language contained in one of those statements. Judge Kleeh ruled that the recorded statement will be shown during the hearing, but that the “derogatory comment” will be edited out.
The main question related to the sentencing is how Kleeh will apply potential life sentences, running them either consecutively or concurrently.
Judge Kleeh has made the hearing available by Zoom, so that the public can view it. Federal court rules prevent that video from being recorded, re-broadcast and/or livestreamed and from screen shots being taken from it.
Representatives from a number of investigative agencies related to the case will hold a briefing shortly after the sentencing ends. That briefing will be livestreamed, on this page, as it happens.
While Mays had entered guilty pleas related to eight deaths, evidence has suggested that there are other deaths that she has not been charged with.
Since Mays’ guilty pleas, the federal government has settled civil lawsuits with the families of 10 victims.