Melanie Proctor has no words to describe the carnage caused by the nursing assistant who murdered her father and a half-dozen other elderly veterans at a West Virginia hospital.
As she prepares to face the serial killer and give a victim impact statement at a sentencing hearing in federal court on Tuesday, she writes a few thoughts, pauses to reflect, and then writes a few more.
“What do you say at this point?” In an interview, Proctor said. “I want her to spend the rest of her life in prison, with no hope of ever seeing the outside world.”
“I want to say something so people know this isn’t about her; this is about her victims,” she said.
Reta Mays, 46, pleaded guilty last year to seven counts of second-degree murder and one count of assault with intent to commit murder in connection with a series of killings at a US Veterans Affairs hospital in Clarksburg, West Virginia, between mid-2017 and June 2018.
According to court documents, Mays confessed to giving the veterans, who ranged in age from 81 to 96, lethal doses of insulin. She faces seven life sentences and an extra 20 years in jail if she is convicted.
Last week, one of her attorneys, public defender Brian Kornbrath, stated that they plan to seek a reduced sentence. He wouldn’t tell what mitigating factors they may have, and he wouldn’t say anything about Mays’ situation.
The findings of an administrative review into shortfalls at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center that caused Mays’ murderous spree to proceed undetected are expected to be released by the VA inspector general on Tuesday.
Patients come from all over the region to the Clarksburg VA, which serves about 70,000 veterans in north-central West Virginia, as well as Maryland, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Mays, who joined the VA in 2015, was assigned to Ward 3A’s night shift.
She worked as a nursing assistant, checking vital signs and sugar levels and acting as a one-on-one sitter for patients who needed constant monitoring. According to her plea deal, she was not allowed to prescribe medicine, including insulin.
A series of errors at the hospital may have resulted in the deaths of veterans. There were no security cameras on the ward where Mays worked, and insulin wasn’t properly monitored.
Staff failed to administer vital tests to determine why patients were having extremely low blood sugar episodes. They have failed to file reports that may have prompted inquiries.
At least eight patients had died on the same ward under mysterious circumstances by the time a doctor told hospital leaders in June 2018. Within three days, three people died.
Felix McDermott, Proctor’s dad, was one of them. He passed away on April 9, 2018.
Mays admitted to giving the 82-year-old man insulin on the night shift hours ago, despite the fact that he was not diabetic. Insulin injections can save a diabetic’s life, but they can also kill them.
His eyes were pinpoints, he was struggling to breathe, he was foaming at the mouth, and his blood sugar had fallen to such dangerously low levels that he never recovered, according to medical reports.
In a court filing detailing the charges against Mays, McDermott is identified as “Count Six.” Last week, Proctor said, “I don’t even want to ask her why because whatever comes out of her mouth is going to be a lie.”
According to Tony O’Dell, a lawyer who represented Proctor and many other families, she and more than a half-dozen other families have settled lawsuits against the VA for sums ranging from $625,000 to nearly $1 million.
Proctor said that she not only wants Mays to spend the rest of her life in jail, but she also wants the VA to insure that anything like this never happens again. She said, “I don’t want to see it happen anywhere.”
The VA reported in December that an independent examination of the hospital had found “concerns about safe patient care and ineffective reporting of adverse incidents.”
The hospital’s management and chief nursing officer were replaced by the agency. Noncritical patients were not admitted for several weeks as part of a “security stand-down.”
Hospital workers are retrained on how to report serious patient care events, according to the VA.
In response to the inquiry by the VA’s inspector general, an independent watchdog, the VA told CN last week that it has made a slew of other changes.
They include measures to improve medical provider teamwork, increase endocrinology referrals and tests, and better educate nursing staff on diabetes.
The organization issued a statement saying, “The Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center mourns the loss of each of these veterans and extends our deepest condolences to their families and loved ones.”
“What happened was unacceptable, and we want veterans and families to know that we are committed to restoring their confidence in the facility,” says the statement.
The VA, which cares for nearly 9 million veterans at more than 1,200 locations, claims to have strengthened hiring standards and procedures around the country.
It’s assessing whether it needs to tighten up its policies on drug storage in its hospitals. Mays served as a corrections officer for several years before being employed at the VA in 2015.
She was serving at the North Central Regional Jail and Correctional Facility in Greenwood, West Virginia, in 2013 when she was accused of raping a prisoner in a civil rights case.
According to the lawsuit, Mays kicked him, spit at him, and chastised him, saying, “You ain’t that tough now are you?”
According to court documents, a federal judge decided there was insufficient evidence to support the charges and dismissed the lawsuit.
According to public records, Mays also worked for ResCare Inc., a privately held home care company located in Kentucky.
Mays’ social media page was full of photographs, memes, and videos before she was arrested. Mays frequently posted on Facebook in the summer of 2018, around the time that federal law enforcement started investigating the veterans’ deaths, often regarding patients and work conditions.
A meme with a picture of a pouting child says, “When you have the most difficult patient and you wonder if it’s because they think you’re a nice nurse or because they hate you.”
“5 minutes until the shift change? Allow me to spice things up for you!” exclaims another, holding up a picture of an elderly woman sprawled on the floor.
“Yeah, but we’re still going to be low on staff, so if you could just work yourself to death, that’d be great,” says another.
Mays posted a news report in April 2018 about the Golden State Killer, a man accused of several murders, hundreds of robberies, and dozens of burglaries across California.
Mays called for donations to a nonprofit that supports disabled veterans in May 2018 in the sole post publicly visible on her Facebook page last week, saying the organization’s work “means a lot to me.”
- VA medical center: Donovan Slack - USA Today