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A Serial Killer Nurse Only Targeted Elderly Military Veterans — and Nobody Knows Why

The accused administered excessive doses of insulin to her patients, killing them.
Cover Image Source: YouTube/CBS Pittsburgh
Cover Image Source: YouTube/CBS Pittsburgh

A nurse who targeted elderly military veterans became the subject of national news when her crimes came to light. Reta Mays was an employee at the Veterans Health Administration (VA) throughout her employment, Oxygen reported. The administration also facilitated her with the Nursing Assistant of the Year Award.

It was the death of Russell Posey, 92, that sparked doubts. Posey was admitted to the Louis A. Johnson Medical Center to recuperate from pneumonia and showed improvement. Posey suddenly suffered from a hypoglycemic event, causing his blood sugar to fall to 14. For two weeks he fought the battle for his life before succumbing to organ failure. His death raised many questions among the hospital staff, and an investigation was ordered.

Representative Image Source: Pexels |Andrea Piacquadio
Representative Image Source: Pexels |Andrea Piacquadio

Reta Mays had a military background, having served in non-combat roles with the West Virginia National Guard and the 1092nd Engineer Battalion, Metro reported. In 2005, she was discharged on good terms and went on to work as a corrections officer at North Central Regional Jail in Greenwood, West Virginia for several years.

A decade after her discharge she started her career as a nursing assistant at the VA Medical Centre in Clarksburg, Metro reported. She was reportedly in charge of measuring patients’ vital signs, changing their sheets, and spending time with the patients. During this period she also got affiliated with the Monroe Chapel United Methodist Church, Metro reported.


Dominic Utton, the author who wrote about Mays' crimes in the book Faces of Evil, told Metro, "She was a nurse, had served in the National Guard, previously worked in a prison, and was a member of her local church. On paper, she was a really good person. But if you picked away at the scab and got past that respectable veneer, you’d see a whole different story."

In 2012, her husband Gordon got jailed on alleged child pornography charges, Metro reported. The case sent shockwaves in the small West Virginia community, as Mays chose to stand by her husband.


Robert Edge Sr. was the first patient Mays targeted while working overnight shifts in Ward 3A of the VA hospital in 2017, Metro reported. Soon many patients began to experience a drop in their blood sugar – a phenomenon known as hypoglycemia – without any previous indication. 

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Jan Kopřiva
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Jan Kopřiva

Dominic believes that it was Mays' confidence that got her caught. "It’s quite a common thing to have a big gap between victim one and victim two, a smaller gap, then a kind of rampage – which often leads to them getting caught," he wrote in his book. "Reta Mays killed her first victim in July 2017 and then targeted her second in January 2018. Then, the timeframes kept getting smaller. She just went for it as she got more confident," he added. 

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pavel Danilyuk
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pavel Danilyuk

Inspector General Michael Missal, of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), launched the investigation in 2018, and Mays immediately became a person of interest.

The incident also put the VA hospital in the line of fire for allowing the crime to occur in their organization, Metro reported. A 100-page scathing report accused the administration of missing chances to avert Mays' rampage.

The families of the victims sued the organization and won five million in a settlement, Oxygen reported. A 100-page report by the Inspector General pointed out many drawbacks – insulin stocks weren’t tracked, there were no CCTV cameras on Ward 3A, and reports on each death weren’t pieced together or compared.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay

Police took two years to create a solid case against Mays. Three hundred interviews were conducted, and every victim's case was analyzed in detail, Metro reported. They unearthed incriminating details from the calls she made to her husband, Gordon who was behind bars, Metro reported. In one, Mays confessed she wanted to "'strangle' one of the patients," Metro reported. They also found out that Mays had watched a Netflix show called Nurses Who Kill – which featured an episode about insulin and how it can be used to murder people. Her online search history included the terms "female serial killers."

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pranidchakan Boonrom
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pranidchakan Boonrom

In July 2020, police arrested her and within two weeks, she pleaded guilty to seven counts of second-degree murder and one count of attempted murder, accepting the plea agreement offered to her.

She was charged with second-degree murder over the killings of Army veterans Robert Lee Kozul Sr., 89, Archie D. Edgell, 84, Felix Kirk McDermott, 82, and William Holloway, 96; Navy veteran Robert Edge Sr., 82; Air Force veteran George Nelson Shaw Sr., 81; and Army and Air Force veteran Raymond Golden, 88, CBS reported.


As part of the plea agreement, she agreed to "debrief" the court on her motive, Oxygen reported. Prosecutor Jarod Douglas claimed that Mays initially said she was 'mercy killing' them but then altered her version and blamed her 'chaotic life' for the killings, stating that administering insulin gave her a sense of control.

Mays was sentenced to seven consecutive life terms, CBS reported. Before her sentencing, she asked for forgiveness from the victims' families.

"I know that there are no words that I can say that would alter the families' pain and comfort," she said, according to CBS. "I don't ask for forgiveness because I don't think I could forgive anyone for doing what I did."


U.S. District Judge Thomas Kleeh told her, "You knew what you were doing."

The defendant's lawyers asked for some leniency and cited her mental health issues, but they were rejected. CBS reported. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jarod Douglas stood firmly against these arguments. He called May's actions "predatory" and stated that she had no right to play god for people and end their lives.

"Several times your counsels made the point that you shouldn't be considered a monster," Kleeh told Mays, CBS reported. "Respectfully, I disagree with that. You are the worst kind. You're the monster that no one sees coming."

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