This past July, Reta Mays pleaded guilty to seven counts of second degree murder and one count of assault with intent to commit an eighth murder, thus taking responsibility for the deaths of veterans being treated at the Lewis A. Johnson VA Hospital in Clarksburg.
Mays, who worked the overnight shift as a nursing assistant, injected the aging veterans with insulin, triggering severe hypoglycemia that caused their deaths.
The plea solved the mystery about the previously unexplained deaths of those veterans, but it did not answer all the questions.
Tony O’Dell, a Charleston attorney representing many of the families of the victims, said on Talkline this week that he is looking into the deaths of 12 more veterans at the hospital.
“We have other cases where an untoward event happened at the hospital,” he said. “We don’t have the smoking gun glucose readings, but these people looked like they were going to be discharged.”
O’Dell is seeking additional medical records and Mays’ work schedule on behalf of the veterans’ families to see if he can tie Mays to those deaths as well. “These people deserve answers,” he said.
Another unanswered question is Mays’ motive. U.S. Attorney Bill Powell, whose office investigated the case, said after the plea deal, that “is the million dollar question. She never told us why she did it.”
However, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, who has been pressing the Veterans Administration for answers, suggested on Talkline Thursday that Mays may be cooperating with the investigation by the VA’s Office of Inspector General.
Manchin said the OIG’s office told him, “She (Mays) is working with them. They will be using Reta Mays sentencing as a lever to get more information from her on other victims.”
Mays, 46, faces the possibility of life in prison. A status hearing is scheduled for later this month as her attorneys and prosecutors prepare arguments over her penalty. If she is cooperating with the OIG investigation, that could be a mark in her favor.
She could also provide important keys to possible system failures at the hospital that allowed the murders to go undetected for over a year.
Hospital spokesman Wesley Walls told the Washington Post that additional safeguards have since been put in place and “The notion that policies and protocols can unfailingly stop those intent on committing crimes strains credulity.”
However, O’Dell insists that the hospital was negligent and that, at minimum, the series of unexplained deaths of patients who were improving in many cases should have sounded an alarm long before the VA noticed something was amiss.
If Manchin is right and Mays is cooperating, the final Inspector General’s report should help fill in the blanks of this ghastly episode and help determine whether system failures at the VA hospital allowed her to get away with it for as long as she did.