How Many Veterans Died From Medical Malpractice at the hands of the VA’s Own Angel of Death
Kristen Gilbert “The Angel of Death”VA Nurse Convicted of Four Deaths, But May Have Been Responsible For as Many as Eighty!
Kristen Gilbert (born November 13, 1967 as Kristen Strickland in Fall River, Massachusetts) is an American serial killer who was convicted for three first-degree murders, one second-degree murder, and two attempted murders of patients admitted for care at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Northampton, Massachusetts. She killed her patients by injecting them with epinephrine, causing them to have heart attacks.
As a child, Kristen Strickland exhibited a high scholastic aptitude. As she entered her teen years, friends and family took notice that she had become a habitual liar and was prone to neurotic behavior. She graduated from high school at age sixteen, graduated from Greenfield Community College, and received licensure as a registered nurse in 1988. Later that year, she married Glenn Gilbert. In 1989, she joined the staff of the VAMC in Northampton. She distinguished herself early on, and was featured in the magazine VA Practitioner in April 1990.
Although other nurses noticed a high number of deaths on Gilbert’s watch, they passed it off and jokingly called her the “Angel of Death.” In 1996, three nurses reported their concern about an increase in cardiac arrest deaths and a decrease in the supply of epinephrine; an investigation ensued. Gilbert telephoned in a bomb threat to attempt to derail the investigation.
Gilbert’s motives are not clear. Staff at the Northampton VAMC have speculated that her intent was to demonstrate her nursing skills by creating emergency situations, since there were an unusual number of cardiac arrests during the time in question and many of the patients survived. Others claim that she was using these emergency situations to gain the attention of James Perrault, a VA police officer who later had an affair with Gilbert. VA hospital rules required that hospital police be present at any medical emergency.
VA hospital staff members speculate that Gilbert may have been responsible for eighty or more deaths and over three hundred medical emergencies.
The prosecutor in her case, Assistant U.S. Attorney William M. Welch II, asserted that Gilbert was having an affair with VA police officer Perrault at the hospital. Perrault testified against Gilbert, saying that she confessed at least one murder to him. Defense attorney David P. Hoose claimed reasonable doubt based on a lack of direct evidence.
Kristen Gilbert, who had two children and was divorced from Glenn Gilbert was convicted on March 14, 2001 in federal court. Though Massachusetts does not have capital punishment, her crimes were committed on federal property and thus subject to the death penalty. However, upon the jury’s recommendation, she was sentenced to life in prison without the chance for parole plus 20 years.
Gilbert was transferred from a federal prison for women in Framingham, MA, to a federal prison in Texas, where she has remained ever since. She is serving her sentence at Carswell Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. Gilbert dropped her federal appeal for a new trial after a recent US Supreme Court ruling that would have allowed prosecutors to pursue the death penalty upon retrial.
AP, Associated Press
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ When Nancy Cutting received a call almost three years ago from a nurse informing her that her husband had died at a veterans hospital, she was overcome with grief.
Now, she’s overcome with anger, having come to believe that the nurse who called that day is the same woman authorities have charged with killing three patients at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital _ including Cutting’s husband _ and trying to kill two others.
Kristen Gilbert was charged with three counts of murder in a federal grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday. She was also charged with attempted murder, retaliating against a federal witness, and obstructing justice. A hearing is set for Dec. 7.
Prosecutors said she used epinephrine, a drug that can overstimulate the heart, on all five patients. If convicted, she could face the death penalty.
“The death penalty is there _ I think she should get it,” Cutting said Thursday.
Federal prosecutors have accused Kristen Gilbert of murdering Kenneth Cutting, a 41-year-old invalid, after asking a supervisor if she could leave early if he died.
“She called me _ Kristen Gilbert. She called me herself and said he died, and I guess it was right after that that she took off,” Cutting told the Boston Herald.
Kenneth Cutting had no known heart problems when he died suddenly on Feb. 2, 1996, after going into cardiac arrest at the hospital in Northampton.
“I had thought by the grace of God it was his time to go,” Nancy Cutting told the Springfield Union-News. “To find out it was a whole different turn was hard.”
According to court records, Gilbert, 31, of Setauket, N.Y., has suffered psychiatric episodes _ including making violent threats _ since she was a teen-ager.
As a student at Bridgewater State College in 1984, Gilbert once left an ex-boyfriend a note saying she had eaten glass, according to an affidavit by Steven Plante, a veteran’s affairs investigator.
According to the document, Gilbert was unharmed and had been lying about the suicide attempt.
The affidavit, filed in 1996 in connection with Gilbert’s trial for phoning in a bomb threat to the Northampton VA Medical Center, offers a glimpse into the past of a woman about whom little is known.
Bridgewater State College officials ordered Gilbert to receive psychiatric treatment after the fake suicide attempt, the document said. She went on to get her nursing degree at Greenfield Community College in 1988.
The affidavit quoted an ex-boyfriend of Gilbert’s as saying she was mentally unstable and he would not be surprised if she “killed or abused somebody.”
Another former boyfriend of Gilbert’s, hospital police officer James Perrault, had his car damaged after he drove to an interview with federal agents investigating Gilbert.
Witnesses also reported getting phone calls from Gilbert accusing them of “stabbing her in the back,” the affidavit said.
Gilbert left the hospital in 1996 amid a hospital probe into a cluster of suspicious patient deaths that occurred during her shift. That fall, she checked herself into area psychiatric hospitals seven times, staying between one and 10 days each time.
Authorities have refused to suggest any specific motive for the killings.
Gilbert, who is divorced and without custody of her two children, was sentenced to 15 months in prison and currently is jailed in Connecticut.
Her attorney, Harry Miles, did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday.