A former nursing assistant has been given multiple life sentences for the murder of seven elderly veterans after she admitted last year to intentionally using fatal injections of insulin to kill the men at a medical center for veterans in West Virginia.
Reta Mays, 46, received seven consecutive life sentences plus 20 years on Tuesday after she pleaded guilty in federal court in July to seven counts of second-degree murder and one count of assault with intent to commit murder.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Kleeh said that evidence showed she had conducted internet searches on female serial killers and watched the Netflix series Nurses Who Kill.
At sentencing, Kleeh told Mays "you knew what you were doing," and said that she had repeatedly denied her involvement when questioned by investigators.
The deaths of men, ranging in age from 81 to 96, occurred while they were in Mays' care in 2017 and 2018 at the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Clarksburg.
She had been employed at the hospital since 2015 and was working the night shift when the veterans died of hypoglycemia, Bernard said. Mays was not authorized to give patients medication but later admitted to administering insulin to several patients with the intent to kill, he said.
Her attorney, Jay McCamic, detailed what he said was his client's history of mental illness. He said Mays suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma from her time in the military serving in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.
Prosecutors said more than 30 family members of victims physically attended the hearing and others watched it via video conference. Melanie Proctor, the daughter of Army veteran Felix McDermott, 82, whom Mays killed, spoke in the courtroom.
"You took some of the greatest men of their time — our loved ones, our veterans — and you preyed on them when they were at their weakest," Proctor said. "For that you are a coward. If you have any morals at all, you will give the other families the peace of mind of knowing the truth of what happened to their loved ones. May God forgive you, as I never will."
Randolph J. Bernard, acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, said in a statement that the case was a collection of "horrific crimes" and that under the circumstances, justice would be difficult.
"No amount of prison time will erase the pain and loss that the families of these eight brave and honorable men have experienced," Bernard said. "Mays will now spend every minute of the rest of her life where she belongs, in prison."
Mays spoke briefly at Tuesday's hearing, expressing remorse but offering no explanation for her actions.
"There's no words I can say that would offer any comfort. I can only say I'm sorry for the pain I caused the families and my family," she said as she wept. "I don't ask for forgiveness, because I don't think I can forgive anyone for doing what I did."
In addition to her sentence, Mays was ordered to pay $172,624.96 to the victims' families, the VA Hospital, Medicare and insurance companies.
NPR's Scott Neuman reported from Washington, D.C.