A former Woodstock, Ont., nurse killed eight elderly patients in southwestern Ontario nursing homes, Ontario Provincial Police allege.
Elizabeth Tracy Mae Wettlaufer, 49, is facing eight counts of first-degree murder in connection with deaths that occurred between August 2007 and August 2014, police said during a Tuesday morning news conference in Woodstock.
The victims were between the ages of 75 and 96. Police would not say exactly how they died, except that seven of them received a fatal dose of a drug.
Wettlaufer was employed by Caressant Care Nursing and Retirement Homes, which operates six facilities in southwestern Ontario. Seven of the victims died at the company's nursing home in Woodstock, a community of around 37,000 people about halfway between London and Hamilton.
She was also employed at the Meadow Park facility in London, where the eighth victim died.
Wettlaufer first became licensed as a registered nurse on June 8, 1995, with the College of Nurses of Ontario — the governing body for registered nurses, registered practical nurses and nurse practitioners. She resigned on Sept. 30, 2016, one day after the OPP say their investigation began.
Her neighbours at her Woodstock apartment building described her as a friendly, unassuming woman known as Beth. She lived alone with her small dog, Nashville.
A Facebook page Woodstock police confirmed belongs to Wettlaufer shows pictures of her travelling and appearing with her family and her cats. There are several posts discussing her life as a nurse.
One post from Feb. 22, 2016, says "23 patients with a gastric bug combined with a full moon made for a crazy night last night. And that is an understatement."
On Sept. 28, 2015, a post on that page said: "My own voice called to me in the darkness. Others hands lifted me when I chose the light. One year ago I woke up not dead. 365 days clean and sober."
Wettlaufer also appears to have written poetry and posted her writing at allpoetry.com. The profile name is bettyweston, but her own name is also attached to the poems, and the accompanying photo is one that appears on Wettlaufer's Facebook page.
Links to the poems are not currently working.
One poem titled Inevitable, written about five years ago, talks about taking a life.
She watches some life drain from the notch in his neck vein.
As it soothingly pools it smothers her pain.
Sweet stiletto so sharp craves another cut.
Obeying a call she moves to his gut.
Blade traces a line from navel to spine
grating on rib bones slicing intestine.
Another poem titled Working Happy, from about six years ago, focuses on her care for the elderly.
Maybe it's the rye or the time of night but my day was not so bad.
Filled with work and satisfaction and old people.
See I work with old people and I love their candidacy,
their points, their wrinkles, their frailties their refusing to eat anything but ice cream, even their smell.
Left Caressant 2½ years ago
The college released a statement Tuesday confirming Wettlaufer is under investigation by the college and is not entitled to practise nursing.
Two of Wettlaufer's former employers sent out statements confirming Wettlaufer's employment history.
Caressant Care said in a statement that she left the company 2½ years ago and the company is "co-operating fully with police."
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Meadow Park in London also indicated it is co-operating with the investigation and said Wettlaufer left its employment two years ago.
Police identified the victims who died at the Woodstock home as:
- James Silcox, 84, who died Aug. 12, 2007.
- Maurice Granat, 84, who died Dec. 23, 2007.
- Gladys Millard, 87, who died Oct. 14, 2011.
- Helen Matheson, 95, who died Oct. 27, 2011.
- Mary Zurawinski, 96, who died Nov. 7, 2011.
- Helen Young, 90, who died July 14, 2013.
- Maureen Pickering, 79, who died March 28, 2014.
The victim at Meadow Park was identified as:
- Arpad Horvath, 75, who died Aug. 31, 2014.
Donalda Osmond, who was friends with victim Helen Matheson, told CBC News Network she was surprised to learn about the charges in her friend's death.
"She was private and trusting, she'd trust anybody, obviously she did," Osmond said of Matheson. "Just a good and decent person."
Eight murder charges are the most brought against any individual in Ontario since eight men were killed on a farm west of London in an internal dispute involving members of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club in 2006, according to Woodstock police Chief William Renton.