Former aide Reta Mays receives seven consecutive life sentences in murders of veterans

A federal judge sentenced former aide Reta Mays to seven consecutive life sentences plus an additional 240 months in the deaths of eight veterans at a VA hospital.

Thomas Kleeh

“Several times your counsel has made the point that you shouldn’t be considered a monster. Respectfully, I disagree with that. You’re the worst kind. You’re the monster no one sees coming,” Judge Thomas Kleeh said to Mays at the sentencing today.

Mays stood to hear the sentencing. When the hearing concluded at noon, she was released to federal marshals.

Mays, the former aide who has admitted killing multiple patients at a Clarksburg veterans hospital, told grieving families today she couldn’t hope they will forgive her.

“There are no words I can say that would offer the families any comfort. I can only say that I’m sorry for the pain I caused the families and my family.

“I don’t ask anyone for forgiveness because I don’t think I could forgive anyone for doing what I did,” said Mays, who made the statement while weeping and couldn’t continue.

Mays pleaded guilty almost a year ago, but the lingering question remains why she would have taken the lives of so many veterans.

Family members told stories of heartbreak and loss this morning.

“He was my hero,” said Robert Edge Jr., son of one of the victims, in video statement.

“When it was time for me to take care of him, you took that away from me. I do not forgive you for what you have done. You murdered my father without cause or reason.”

Edge concluded his statement by addressing Mays directly.

“I want you to experience what death feels like,” he said. “I want you to understand that.”

Those were examples of the heart wrenching statements from family members as sentencing started at 9 a.m. today in U.S. District Court in Clarksburg for Mays, who was present at a table in the courtroom, wearing an orange jumpsuit.

Mays has pleaded guilt in killing veterans by injecting them with lethal doses of insulin while she worked the overnight shift. All had checked into the hospital to seek healthcare and all had expected to recover. None were being treated for diabetes, yet the blood sugar crashed under suspicious circumstances resulting in tragedies.

MORE: Inspector General concludes VA bears responsibility for lapses that allowed veterans’ killings

Federal prosecutor Jarod Douglas described that cause of death as painful and anything but an act of mercy.

“The defendant knew exactly what symptoms were coming, having observed them herself,” Douglas said, asking for Mays to serve seven life sentences plus another 20 years.

In some cases, the prosecutor said, Mays followed up the circumstances she had caused by taking part in the hospital’s life-saving efforts.

“Apparently the defendant found some excitement or self worth in causing these emergencies,” Douglas said. “These actions gave the defendant a sense of control.”

Mays, 46, of Harrison County, entered a guilty plea last July 14 to seven counts of murder and another count of assault with attempt to murder. Prosecutors said the last charge was because the victim lived for a period of time and Mays’ actions could not be determined to be the exact cause when the veteran died weeks later.

“You took some of the greatest men of their prime, our loved ones, and you preyed on them at their weakest. For that you are a coward,” said Melanie Proctor, youngest daughter of victim Felix McDermott. “May God forgive you, as I never will.”

Although Mays has pleaded guilty, she has never publicly described any motive.

“I don’t know why Reta did what she did. I don’t know that we’ll ever know. But she took my life away from me,” said Norma Shaw, who was married to George Shaw for almost 59 years.

The defense attorneys for Mays have been working to present mitigating factors in the case. Mays faces consecutive life terms for seven murder counts and another 20 years for a count of assault with attempt to murder.

Her defense attorneys in a previous status hearing were focused on gathering records about Mays’ mental health dating back to her 2003 deployment to Iraq, where she was a chemical equipment repairer with the West Virginia National Guard’s 1092nd Engineer Battalion.

During sentencing today, her lawyers pointed to a history of medical and mental health problems until “any ability in her to maintain clear thinking collapsed.”

“Unfortunately the ‘why’ can’t be answered here. Reta Mays doesn’t know why,” said Jay McCamic, an attorney for Mays, who requested a sentence on the lower end of the possible 30 years to life.

Mays began working at the Louis A Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg in June 2015. She was removed from her job in July 2018.

She worked the night shift, 7:30 p.m. to 8 a.m. in Ward 3A, which housed fragile patients who were not well enough to be discharged but whose conditions did not require the intensive care unit.

Her job as a nursing assistant required her to measure patients’ vital signs, test blood glucose levels and sit one-on-one with patients who required observation.

Autopsies on exhumed bodies have pointed to insulin injections that weren’t needed. The veterans died of low blood sugar level — severe hypoglycemia — caused by the insulin shots.

She admitted to killing veterans Robert Edge Sr.Robert KozulArchie EdgellGeorge Shaw, a patient identified only as W.A.H., Felix McDermott and Raymond Golden. She is also accused of administering insulin to “R.R.P.,” another patient who was not diabetic, with intent to kill him.

The judge specifically stated all their names and described their military service during the sentencing hearing today.

“To a man, they were good and decent people who served their country honorably,” Judge Kleeh said.

The charges and plea followed a two-year investigation that began after the VA Medical Center reported several suspicious deaths. Mays had access to the veterans’ hospital rooms. She wasn’t supposed to have access to insulin.

“We would like justice for each family she harmed. None of these men deserved what she did to them. None of them,” said Amanda Edgell, who spoke with her husband Steve, the son of victim Archie Edgell.

“Listening to all these stories, it sounds like everyone was so loved and the families have just lost a huge part of their life.”

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