UPDATE: Woman pleads guilty to 7 counts of murder in Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center deaths

Crime

UPDATE (7/14/20 5:42 p.m.):

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – The United State’s Attorney’s Office has released a statement following the guilty pleas entered Tuesday by Reta Mays.

Reta Mays

“In today’s plea agreement, the defendant has admitted to actions that ended the lives of several military veterans who served our country honorably.  Our investigation never lost sight of each of these lives and the sacrifices these men made for their country.  The investigative work and the time it took to do it was always done with an eye towards honoring these men. 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,” said U.S. Attorney Bill Powell.  “I want to thank the incredible work by the FBI, the VA-OIG, the West Virginia State Police, the Greater Harrison Drug & Violent Crimes Task Force and our prosecution team.  I also want to especially thank Attorney General Barr, and the families of the victims who never wavered in their support of this investigation.  We look forward to the conclusion of this matter at the sentencing, where we will be seeking the maximum penalty.”

Mays was employed as a nursing assistant at the VAMC, working the night shift during the same period of time veterans in her care died of hypoglycemia while being treated at the hospital. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, nursing assistants at the VAMC are not qualified or authorized to administer any medication to patients, including insulin. Mays admitted to administering insulin to several patients with the intent to cause their deaths.

“These cases are tragic and heart breaking,” said Veterans Affairs Inspector General Michael J. Missal. “I thank the VA OIG agents and our law enforcement partners who worked tirelessly to ensure justice was served and that the victims’ families have some measure of closure. They are in our thoughts and prayers as we work with VA to help prevent anything like this from ever happening again.”

“When you break the trust you’re given as a medical professional and break the law, there are consequences,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman. “This was a lengthy and thorough investigation with hundreds of interviews, extensive medical and administrative records to review and forensic testing that needed to be done. These eight Veterans deserved respect and honor. They served our country and we all owe them a debt of gratitude. They didn’t deserve to die at the hands of a nursing assistant who intentionally inflicted pain on them and their families. I commend the work of my agents and our law enforcement partners with the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General.”

Mays faces up to life in prison for each count of second-degree murder.  Mays faces up to 20 years in prison for assault with intent to commit murder.

The Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General and the FBI investigated. The West Virginia State Police and the Greater Harrison Drug & Violent Crimes Task Force, a HIDTA-funded initiative, assisted.

VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal also released the following statement on the proceedings.

“What occurred at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center is tragic and heartbreaking. This case is particularly shocking because these deaths were at the hands of a nursing assistant who was entrusted with providing compassionate and supportive care to veterans. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims.

Within a matter of days of learning of the suspicious deaths at the facility, VA OIG agents identified the defendant as a person of interest. Working with medical facility leaders, the defendant was immediately removed from patient care. Without critical investigative actions being taken so expeditiously, additional lives could have been lost.

This was a complex investigation that involved a close partnership between the VA Office of Inspector General, US Attorney Bill Powell’s Office and the FBI, with the invaluable assistance of the West Virginia State Police and the Greater Harrison County Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force. These collaborations resulted in solving this series of heinous crimes against veterans and providing some measure of closure for the victims and their families. The result today was due to the tireless and dedicated efforts of the VA OIG law enforcement team, particularly lead Special Agent Keith Vereb, underthe leadership of Resident Agent in Charge Colin Davis and Special Agent in Charge Kim Lampkins.

Our investigators painstakingly sought, tested, and pieced together an overwhelming amount of evidence to create the foundation for this case. For example, the investigation included

• extensive forensic audits and analyses, data modeling, and exhaustive medical record
reviews;
• approximately 350 interviews;
• more than 60 subpoenas and search warrants on electronic media;
• approximately 1,200 current and former employee timecard reviews;
• reviews of about 670,000 VA employee emails and multiple years of swipe card access logs
for multiple personnel;
• forensic analyses for various insulin and tissue samples by multiple experts; and
• coordinated disinterments and reinternments, with family agreement (including full military honors per family request), and witnessed associated autopsies.

The fact that the defendant pleaded guilty today to seven counts of second-degree murder is a
testament to the strength of the case developed by our criminal team through their diligence, tenacity, and skill.”

VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal

UPDATE (7/14/20 3:19 p.m.):

Reta Mays, 46, of Harrison County, has pleaded guilty to eight charges in federal court, including seven counts of second-degree murder.

The final count is for assault with intent to commit murder. The court accepted Mays’ plea on all counts.

The prosecution recommended a sentence of seven consecutive life terms for the murder charges, plus 20 years for the assault charge.

Mays will be sentenced at a later date. The court set a status conference for Oct. 30 at 1 p.m.

Mays will be held in Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville.

Wesley Walls, with the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center, released a statement on Tuesday’s proceedings.

“Our hearts go out to those affected by these tragic deaths. 

Clarksburg VA Medical Center discovered these allegations and reported them to VA’s independent inspector general more than two years ago. Clarksburg VA Medical Center also fired the individual at the center of the allegations.  

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.”

Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center statement

ORIGINAL STORY (7/14/20 11:56 a.m.):

A woman is set to plead guilty Tuesday in federal court to seven murder counts in the hypoglycemia deaths of veteran patients at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg.

Reta Mays is due in court July 14 at 2 p.m. for her plea hearing, according to court documents.

Mays is charged with seven counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Robert Edge Sr., Robert Kozul, Archie Edgell, George Shaw, W.A.H., Felix McDermott and Raymond Golden. She is also charged with assault with intent to commit murder against another veteran, listed only by his initials, R.R.P.

In each case, Mays is accused of administering insulin to each of the veterans, leading them to suffer hypoglycemia. Four of the veterans were diabetic, while the other four were not diabetic.

According to court documents, the incidents happened between July 2017 and June 2018.

The United States Attorney’s Office is scheduled to hold a press conference Tuesday at 3 p.m. 12News will provide a livestream of this event.

West Virginia’s U.S. Senators, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV issued statements on the development in the investigation:

“My heart goes out to the families and loved ones who tragically lost a Veteran and have had to endure this injustice. 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. Today’s news confirms that the nursing assistant at the Clarksburg VA Medical Center murdered Veterans under her care. As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, I will not stop until we determine how this could have happened, and ensure it never happens again. Our Veterans deserve world-class care and their families deserve peace of mind at every step of the way.”

Joe Manchin

“Our veterans should always feel safe and cared for at our VA hospitals. Period. The situation at the Clarksburg VA was sickening and deeply troubling. It is unacceptable in any setting. My heart breaks for the families of these veterans, and I know I speak for all West Virginians when I say that we are astounded that something like this could happen. The families of these victims deserve answers, and today’s news will help bring some closure to what has been a long and painful journey. Going forward, it is important that we make sure our veterans receive the best care possible, feel safe while receiving care at our West Virginia VA medical facilities, and tragedies like this never, ever happen again.”

Shelley Moore Capito

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts, a Vietnam combat veteran and Chair of the AFL-CIO’s Veterans Committee, issued the following statement on the case:

“The admission by a former nursing assistant that she murdered patients under her care at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Clarksburg, W.Va., is shocking and beyond comprehension. We grieve for all those lost, and we send our prayers to their families. While justice may finally be coming in this case, nothing can bring back their loved ones.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs must get to the bottom of how this could happen, and establish protocols so that it can never happen again. I am very concerned that funding for our veterans’ health care system, including the VA hospitals, has continued to face cuts from Washington politicians at the same time that thousands of Vietnam veterans need health care the most.

“I urge West Virginia’s congressional delegation to demand Congress restore adequate funding for America’s veterans. They put their lives on the line for all of us. For them to be subject to unspeakable tragedies like this is unacceptable.”

Statement from United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts

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