Former VA hospital employee pleads guilty in Clarksburg medical center deaths

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UPDATE 10:20 p.m. 7/15/2020: West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice addressed the case during his Wednesday press briefing.

“There are some bad people out there in the world, there really are,” Justice said. “It’s hard to fathom why someone would do such a hideous thing to the very people that we owe everything we have to.

“I ask you to join us in praying for these great heroes we lost through an absolutely hideous act,” Gov. Justice said. “Please continue to pray for these people and all their loved ones.”

UPDATE 6 p.m. 7/14/2020: By pleading guilty to seven counts of murder, Reta Mays will get a life sentence for each count, plus 20-years. Because the federal system has no parole, she’ll likely spend the remainder of her life in federal prison.

UPDATE 5 p.m. 7/14/2020: The Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG) is releasing more information on the investigation of the suspicious deaths at the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, WV.

According to the OIG, Within a matter of days of learning of the suspicious deaths at the facility, VA OIG agents identified Reta Mays as a person of interest. The office worked with medical facility leaders, to immediately remove Mays from patient care.

The OIG says taking critical investigative actions so expeditiously prevented additional deaths.

“These cases are tragic and heartbreaking. 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.”

Veterans Affairs Inspector General Michael J. Missal

The complex investigation involved a close partnership between the VA Office of Inspector
General, US Attorney Bill Powell’s Office and the FBI, with the assistance from the West Virginia
State Police and the Greater Harrison County Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force.

Some parts of 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;
  • 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
a testament to the strength of the case developed by our criminal team through their diligence, tenacity, and skill,” OIG officials said.

UPDATE 3:30 p.m. 7/14/2020: A former nursing assistant pleaded guilty today in federal court here to murder and assault charges in the deaths of eight veterans at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center
in Clarksburg, West Virginia, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell announced.

According to Powell’s office, Reta Mays, 46, of Harrison County, West Virginia, pled guilty today, Tuesday, July 14, 2020 to seven counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of veterans Robert Edge, Sr., Robert Kozul, Archie Edgell, George Shaw, W.A.H., Felix McDermott, and Raymond Golden. She pled guilty to one count of “assault with intent to commit murder” involving the death of veteran R.R.P.

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, Powell said. Nursing assistants at the VAMC are not qualified or authorized to administer any medication to patients, including insulin. According to Powell, Mays admitted to administering insulin to several patients with the intent to cause their deaths.

Mays faces up to life in prison for each count of second-degree murder and up to 20 years in prison for “assault with intent to commit murder.” Powell says under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

UPDATE 12:20 p.m. 7/14/2020: U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) has released a statement regarding the charges against former Clarksburg VA Hospital employee Reta Mays:

“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.”

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)

“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.”

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV)

CLARKSBURG, WV (WOWK) – A former VA hospital employee in Clarksburg has been charged with seven counts of second-degree murder and one count of assault with intent to murder in the suspicious deaths of military veterans being treated inside that hospital.

Federal charging documents allege former employee Reta P. Mays was injecting patients with insulin even though they were not diabetic and causing their deaths. Mays was not authorized by anyone to give these shots. Last fall, an attorney for many of the victims’ families called it a betrayal of those who defended this country.

“They put their lives at risk for us. they served their country. And they deserve the very best and they didn’t get it. And it’s hard to imagine the disappointment and the betrayal that these families feel,” said attorney Tony O’Dell on September 12, 2019.

A few months ago WOWK 13 News was the first media outlet to publicly identify Mays of Reynoldsville.

Details of the charges and investigation will be revealed at a 3 p.m. news conference in Clarksburg conducted by Bill Powell, the United States attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia.

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