Fired VA staffer facing 7 murder counts in insulin deaths

A former staffer at a veterans hospital in West Virginia is being charged with killing seven patients by giving them fatal doses of insulin, according to court documents unsealed Tuesday in a sweeping probe into a series of mysterious deaths.

Reta Mays, a former nursing assistant at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia, is being charged with second degree murder in the deaths of seven people and assault with the intent to commit murder of an eighth person between 2017 and 2018.

She has a plea hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. Mays’ attorney did not immediately return a voicemail seeking comment.

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The unsealed court records, which name Mays publicly for the first time, come after multiple families initiated civil lawsuits against VA leadership alleging a widespread system of failures at the hospital, where victims were wrongfully injected with insulin and suddenly died.

The widow of George Nelson Shaw Sr. said the 81-year-old retired Air Force member was given four insulin shots without a doctor's order in March 2018. Her lawsuit accuses the hospital of failing to securely store insulin and prevent its access by unauthorized personnel.

A federal judge was informed of the charges by U.S. Attorney Bill Powell's office ahead of Mays' plea hearing. Powell had described the probe of at least 11 patient deaths at the hospital as a top priority. Robert Wilkie, the Veterans Affairs secretary, had called for an expedited investigation into the deaths.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who previously expressed “grave concerns over the pace of the investigation” to Attorney General William Barr, told reporters last year that the FBI was involved and that the bodies of victims were being exhumed. Manchin said then that the VA inspector general told his office that the probe was opened in July 2018, after at least nine patients were diagnosed with unexplained low blood sugar.

“While overdue, today justice is finally being served,” Manchin said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”

The VA is the government’s second-largest department, responsible for 9 million military veterans. The agency’s former director was fired in 2018 in the wake of a bruising ethics scandal and a mounting rebellion within the agency, and the doctor who Trump nominated to replace him had to withdraw his nomination amid accusations of misconduct.