Serial killer nurse gave police only first names of murder victims, Wettlaufer inquiry hears

The provincial inspector dispatched to the Caressant Care nursing home in Woodstock, Ont., after nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer confessed to murder in October 2016 told the long-term care inquiry she was shocked when she realized she'd been involved two years previously in an inspection involving the serial killer.

Rhonda Kukoly was one of the investigators who combed through records at homes where nurse had worked

The provincial inspector dispatched to a nursing home in Woodstock, Ont., after nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer confessed to murder in October 2016 told the long-term care inquiry she was shocked when she realized she'd been involved two years previously in an inspection involving the serial killer. 

"My heart dropped when I saw that I did that inspection and that it involved Elizabeth Wettlaufer," said Rhonda Kukoly, a long-term care inspector.

In 2014, a batch of narcotics went missing from Meadow Park nursing home in London, Ont. Kukoly investigated, and learned that a registered nurse — now known to be Wettlaufer — had quit the same day the narcotics went missing, and that she had a problem with drugs and alcohol. 

But Kukoly ruled the home did what it should have done and was in compliance with legislation and regulations. 

"I was looking at that home and the risk in that home was not there anymore because the nurse was gone," Kukoly said. "My job is not to determine if she took the narcotics, it's to determine if the home was compliant."

She now wishes she'd asked administrators if they had called the College of Nurses to report Wettlaufer's addiction issues. 

'Literally in shock' 

She was called Oct. 5, 2016, to get basic information from Caressant Care about Wettlaufer. Police had told her and a colleague they were not allowed to speak to anyone except the administrator. The administrator had retired the previous week and so they dealt with the director of care, Helen Crombez, trying to get a list of deaths that happened within 24 hours of Wettlaufer working a shift. 

"Helen Crombez was obviously, reasonably, understandably upset. She kept saying, 'We're a good home, we're a good home.' She was literally in shock," Kukoly said. 

When she confessed to killing eight people and trying to kill or harm six others over the course of almost a decade, Wettlaufer gave police names of her victims, but didn't know all the last names. Crombez was going through the home's death register to try to match the information given by Wettlaufer to what had been recorded. 

"We didn't really ask her anything else. She was obviously distressed," Kukoly said. 

As the inspectors left, they called their supervisor who told them the next day they would have to visit Meadow Park nursing home in London, Ont., where Wettlaufer had killed another resident. 

"The day I was assigned to the Elizabeth Wettlaufer inspection at Caressant Care Woodstock will be forever ingrained in my mind," Kukoly wrote in her affidavit for the inquiry.

The inquiry into the safety and security of residents in long-term care is expected to last until September. This is the first of two weeks during which the province, which regulates and funds nursing homes in Ontario, is under scrutiny. 

​'No idea these crimes occurred'

By the end of October, Kukoly and her team were speaking to staff and family as well as friends of victims about concerns they had about the home. 

The inspectors were at the home until March 2017. 

"It was apparent through our observations and interviews that staff were feeling broken by the information that had come to light about Elizabeth Wettlaufer and the ongoing media attention," Kukoly said. 

On the first day of a full inspection, a registered nurse began crying when asked if inspectors could observe her administering medication. 

"Staff were feeling really traumatized because they had worked with a serial killer, and their residents were murdered, perhaps during their shift. Only a few did not cry during the interviews," Kukoly said.