April A Taylor
Medical professionals are supposed to help people, but there have been several serial killer nurses who ended the lives of their patients, instead. Some of these nurses haven’t become as infamous as serial killer doctors like H. H. Holmes. However, this doesn’t mean their crimes against humanity were any less heinous. In fact, the methods that some of these nurses used to terminate those in their care may be disturbing enough to make you think twice about going in for that checkup.
Perhaps these individuals were able to get away with their crimes for so long because society views nurses as the ultimate caregivers. This makes it very difficult to consider that someone who has lost a lot of patients could actually be responsible. The reality, though, is that hospital workers have creepy stories about things they’ve seen, heard, and done. Medical nurses who were serial killers may not be one of the most common hospital oddities, but there have definitely been more of them than most people would ever guess.
• Niels Hoegel May Have Killed More Than 90 Patients
In February 2015, German nurse Niels Hoegel was jailed for two murders and several attempted murders at Delmenhorst Hospital. He would inject his patients with a cardiovascular drug to create a medical emergency, then step in to resuscitate them at the last moment. Hoegel was active between 1999 and 2005.
A new indictment was filed against Hoegel in January 2018, charging him with killing an additional 97 patients over the years. His exact number of victims has been difficult to determine due to a lack of concrete evidence connecting him to suspicious deaths in the hospitals where he was employed.
On June 6, 2019, Hoegel was convicted of 85 intentional deaths and sentenced to life in prison. He is known to have worked at a hospital in Oldenburg between 1999 and 2002 before moving onto Delmenhorst where he operated until 2005.
During his trial Hoegel apologized to the relatives of his victims, expressing remorse and admitting to the shame he feels for the suffering he has caused.
• • Photo: Unknown police photographer / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
Amelia Dyer Killed An Estimated 400 Infants
Amelia Dyer is one of the most notorious serial killers in history. Although she was only convicted of 12 deaths, evidence suggests her true body count was at least 400. Her crimes took place over a 20-year time span in the late 1800s, and all of her victims were babies.
Dyer was a trained nurse who turned to baby farming to make money. She would offer to adopt or nurse a child in return for a fee but would typically terminate the babies within days by drugging them with opium-based substances or smothering them. She actually served six months in prison for negligence in 1879.
But Dyer wasn’t arrested for her crimes until 1896. Her reign of terror finally ended permanently on June 10, 1896, when she was executed by hanging for the murder of 12 infants.
• • Photo: Unknown / via Alchetron / CC BY-SA 3.0
Arnfinn Nesset Killed Up To 138 Patients In Norway
Arnfinn Nesset’s case is unusual: he was caught, convicted, served time in jail, and eventually released. The former Norwegian nurse completed his prison term and subsequent supervision period in 2005. Nesset is now living under a new, unreported name, which makes it impossible for the families of his victims to know his current location.
After he was caught in 1982, Nessen admitted to killing 27 patients at a nursing home with a lethal injection of the muscle relaxant drug suxamethonium chloride. However, he later recanted his confession, which extended his murder trial to five months. He was ultimately found guilty of killing 22 people, but it’s believed his true body count is closer to 140.
• • Edson Izidoro Guimarães Killed Up To 131 People As A So-Called Act Of Mercy
Edson Izidoro Guimarães was convicted of four murders in 2000. However, the nurse admitted to killing five patients, and some estimates place his probable list of victims at more than 130. All of these deaths happened between January and May of 1999.
A co-worker stopped the slayings by reporting it when he witnessed Guimarães injecting a patient with potassium chloride. After he was arrested for his crimes, Guimarães stated that he had no regrets because he had helped people who were in irreversible comas.
It’s unknown if that was the true motive, but investigators suspected that he was killing people to earn $60 each by reporting their deaths to nearby funeral homes. Known locally by the nickname “the Nurse of Death,” he received a prison term of 76 years.
• • Daniela Poggiali Ended Her Patients, And Then Took Selfies With Them
Italian nurse Daniela Poggiali allegedly killed at least 90 of her patients on purpose because they were bothersome. While she vehemently denied the charges, the Italian government thought otherwise and charged her in 2014 with the crimes.
Not only was Poggiali present for 96 deaths during her time as a nurse – a very high number, according to authorities – she also took selfies with her deceased patients.
Police said she stole money and jewelry from the victims and bragged to others that she killed them because they “annoyed” her.
• • Jane Toppan’s Dream Was To Kill More People Than Anyone Else
Known by the nickname “Jolly Jane,” the nurse Jane Toppan confessed to 33 murders in 1901. She would inject patients with lethal doses of morphine, then climb into bed with them and hold them until they passed. Toppan was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent the rest of her life in a mental institution instead of prison.
Toppan stated that it was sexually thrilling to take people to the brink of death, bring them back, and then kill them. Perhaps even more disturbing was Toppan’s stated life’s purpose: “to have killed more people – helpless people – than any other man or woman who ever lived.”
She may not have reached her goal, but she was dubbed the “greatest criminal of modern times” by the Clinton Morning Age in 1902.
• • Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Fair use
Charles Cullen Became New Jersey’s Most Prolific Serial Killer
Charles Cullen spent 16 years as a serial killing nurse before he was finally caught in 2003. He admitted to ending the lives of up to 40 patients with lethal injections during that time, although it’s believed that this may be a conservative estimate.
Although Cullen is the only one to blame for his actions, there were many medical professionals along the way who could have stopped him from harming patients. In fact, after Cullen was caught, most of the seven hospitals he worked for reported that they had suspected he was hurting the people in his care.
It’s unclear why none of these hospitals contacted the police or, at the very least, made their concerns known to his subsequent employers when they verified his work references. Cullen’s long tenure in the medical field enabled him to become the most prolific serial killer in New Jersey history. He was given a prison term of 127 years.
• • Photo: Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Genene Jones Had A Body Count Of Up To 60 Infants And Children
Serial killing nurse Genene Jones was active from 1977 to 1982. Each one of her victims was an infant or child, and she murdered them with lethal doses of various medications. Jones is believed to have killed at least 60 people, but she was originally only convicted in the death of one patient.
More than 30 years later, Jones received a second murder charge in an attempt to prevent her from receiving a planned mandatory early release due to prison overcrowding. The true number of deaths that were caused by Jones may never be discovered because some of the pertinent hospital records have been destroyed.
• • Stephan Letter Caused The Most Untimely German Deaths Since WWII
From 2003 to 2004, a German nurse named Stephan Letter used lethal injections to end at least 29 of his patients, many of whom were elderly. It’s highly likely Letter took more lives, though, because approximately 80 people passed while he was on duty.
Letter did admit to some of the deaths, but he tried to portray himself as a mercy killer. The jury didn’t believe this explanation, and they convicted Letter on 28 capital charges. The sheer number of killings that Letter committed during a short period of time makes him responsible for the untimeliest deaths in Germany since World War II.
• • Photo: Indiana Department of Corrections
Orville Lynn Majors Killed Patients Who Were Whiny Or Demanding
In 1999, Orville Lynn Majors was given the unusual sentence of 360 years in prison for his three-year criminal spree that took the lives of up to 130 patients. He worked in a hospital in Clinton, IN, from 1993 to 1995, and the small-town hospital’s fatality rate shot up by a staggering amount after Majors was hired.
It was estimated that 33% of all patients admitted to the hospital passed during this time period, and the odds of expiring when Majors was on the clock were much higher than usual.
Although the prosecutors were never able to put together a concrete motive, it was reported in the Journal of Forensic Sciences that Majors selected his victims based partially on which patients were whiny and the most demanding. Andy Harris, who was once Majors’s roommate, testified that Majors believed the elderly “should all be gassed.”
• Richard Angelo Poisoned At Least 35 Patients
In 1989, Richard Angelo was given a minimum of 50 years in prison after he was convicted of killing four patients and harming four others. Further investigations determined that he had actually poisoned at least 35 people during his seven months working at a hospital on Long Island.
Angelo was finally caught after suspicions were aroused when an unprescribed medication was found in one patient’s urine. The motive behind Angelo’s medical attacks was to induce respiratory or cardiac arrest so he could step in and save the patients in front of his colleagues at the last minute.
• • Photo: Angelina County Jail / via MRT
Kimberly Saenz Injected Patients With Bleach
Kimberly Saenz is a convicted medical serial killer who obtained her last job by falsifying information on her application. This led to tragic consequences for at least five people, although there were suspicious circumstances surrounding medical complications that afflicted 16 patients.
During a single 30-day time period in 2008, the dialysis center where Saenz worked called for emergency assistance 30 times. To put this into perspective, only two emergency calls had been placed during the previous 15 months.
Saenz still denies she did anything wrong, but two of her co-workers testified they saw her inject bleach into dialysis lines. Investigators also discovered Saenz had performed web searches to determine whether or not bleach could be detected in a dialysis line. Saenz was able to avoid the death penalty, but she will be behind bars for the rest of her life.
• • Kristen Gilbert’s Coworkers Called Her The Angel Of Death
Kristen Gilbert’s co-workers jokingly referred to her as the “Angel of Death” because so many patients passed during her shifts in 1995 and 1996. Over time, though, those same co-workers began to notice disturbing evidence suggesting Gilbert was actually murdering some of the veterans placed under her care at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northampton, MA.
When the medical center’s Epinephrine supply began mysteriously and rapidly disappearing, a few nurses alerted the authorities. Gilbert then made her first major mistake when she called in a bomb threat in an attempt to derail the early stages of the investigation into the increase in cardiac arrests.
During her trial, prosecutors claimed Gilbert killed at least four patients by overdosing them on epinephrine, which caused them to suffer from a heart attack. They also indicated that Gilbert’s main motive was to get more attention from a hospital security guard she was dating. She could have received the death penalty, but a jury sentenced Gilbert to life in prison in 2001.
• • Petr Zelenka Claimed He Was Testing Doctors When He Killed Patients
In 2006, Czech nurse Petr Zelenka was arrested for injecting at least 17 of his patients with Heparin. Left undetected, a large enough dose of Heparin will result in the receiver dying from internal bleeding. Zelenka reportedly said he wanted to test doctors to find out if they could discover the internal bleeding before each afflicted patient passed.
Seven people wound up dead as a result of his game. The hospital first began to suspect Zelenka in September 2006, but he was able to keep his job – and continue killing – until December. Zelenka was given a life sentence for his crimes.
• • Beverley Allitt Had Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy
Beverley Allitt was entrusted with the lives of numerous kids in a British hospital’s children’s ward in the spring of 1991. Tragically, she managed to attack 13 young patients and kill four over less than a two-month period. Investigators determined that an unneeded insulin injection was the murder weapon in at least some of the cases.
Allitt was later diagnosed with Munchausen syndrome by proxy; her need for attention and sympathy may have been the motive for her crimes. At the time of her sentencing in 1993, Allitt was given one of the longest prison terms for a female convict in UK history.
Since then, she has been receiving treatment for mental health issues at a secured hospital. Allitt received 13 life sentences but will be eligible for parole in 2022.
• • Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer Terminated Patients For Being ‘Mean’
Canadian nurse Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer worked with elderly patients from 2007 to 2014 before she was caught and convicted of killing eight people. Tragically, many of these deaths could have been avoided if the four people she had confessed to, including a pastor, had taken her seriously enough to tell the police.
Wettlaufer was very forthcoming after her arrest, and she tried to justify her actions by claiming God wanted to use her in this way. She also described feeling a “red surge” before injecting her victims with a lethal dose of insulin.
During an interview with a homicide detective, Wettlaufer indicated that she chose at least a few of her victims because she thought they were “mean.” In total, Wettlaufer’s “red surge” led to eight deaths and six attempted murders. In 2017, she was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
• • Photo: Kent County Sheriff’s Office / via Wood TV 8
Gwendolyn Graham And Cathy Wood Were Lethal Lovers
Cathy Wood and Gwendolyn Graham were co-workers engaged in a romantic relationship that turned deadly. Dubbed the “Lethal Lovers” by the media, Graham and Wood killed at least five patients together in a Michigan nursing home during a two-month period in 1987.
The first murder, which was not initially deemed a suspicious death, involved an elderly Alzheimer’s patient, whom Graham suffocated. The pair apparently believed having a murder pact would keep them together.
Wood later admitted to the killings, and she alleged Graham was the person who physically committed each crime. Graham ended up reneging on their pact after just a few months and began dating someone else. In 1989, the former lovers were arrested and convicted in five patient passings.