Former Clarksburg VA hospital nursing assistant sentenced to seven life sentences for murdering veterans

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – A former nursing assistant was sentenced today in federal court for murder and assault charges in the deaths of eight veterans at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Clarksburg, West Virginia, Acting U.S. Attorney Randolph J. Bernard announced.

Reta Mays, 46, of Harrison County, West Virginia, was sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences, one for each murder, and an additional 20 years for the eight victim. Mays pleaded guilty in July 2020 to seven counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of veterans Robert Edge Sr., Robert Kozul, Archie Edgell, George Shaw, W.A.H., Felix McDermott, and Raymond Golden. She pleaded guilty to one count of assault with intent to commit murder involving the death of veteran Russell Posey.

“In a case where we are confronted with the horrific crimes committed by the defendant against those who gave so much of themselves to serve this country, justice is somewhat of an elusive concept. No amount of prison time will erase the pain and loss that the families of these eight brave and honorable men have experienced. These men are heroes in our community, state, and country, and deserved so much more,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bernard. “Mays will now spend every minute of the rest of her life where she belongs, in prison.”

Mays was employed as a nursing assistant at the VAMC, working the night shift during the same period of time that the veterans in her care died of hypoglycemia while being treated at the hospital. Nursing assistants at the VAMC are not qualified or authorized to administer any medication to patients, including insulin. Mays would sit one-on-one with patients. She admitted to administering insulin to several patients with the intent to cause their deaths.

“While responsibility for these heinous criminal acts lies with Reta Mays, an extensive healthcare inspection by our office found the facility had serious and pervasive clinical and administrative failures that contributed to them going undetected,” said VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal. “I hope that the victims’ families can find some measure of solace knowing that Mays was caught and punished, and that steps are being taken to help ensure other families do not suffer the same loss. I would like to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and the West Virginia State Police for their strong partnership throughout this complex investigation.”

“It is beyond disturbing that someone would seek out the opportunity to work as a medical professional to aid the sick, and then twist their duty and willingly end the life of their patients,” said FBI Pittsburgh Acting Special Agent in Charge Carlton Peeples. “I hope today’s sentence brings peace and closure to the families of these veterans. It certainly sends the message that when you break the trust you are given and, in the process break the law, there are consequences, no matter who you are or what your profession is.”

This investigation, which began in June 2018, involved more than 300 interviews; the review of thousands of pages of medical records and charts; the review of phone, social media, and computer records; countless hours of consulting with some of the most respected forensic experts and endocrinologists; the exhumation of some of the victims; and the review of hospital staff and visitor records to assess their potential interactions with the victims. Today’s sentence was the result of the tireless and comprehensive efforts of both criminal investigators and healthcare experts.

Mays was also ordered to pay a total of $172,624.96 to the victims’ families, the VA Hospital, Medicare, and insurance companies.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jarod J. Douglas and Brandon S. Flower prosecuted the case on behalf of the government. The Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General and the FBI investigated. The West Virginia State Police and the Greater Harrison Drug & Violent Crimes Task Force, a HIDTA-funded initiative, assisted.

U.S. District Judge Thomas S. Kleeh presided.

The Victims:

  1. Robert Edge, Sr. – Mr. Edge served the United States Navy from 1952 to 1956 with an honorable discharge.
  2. Robert Kozul – Mr. Kozul served in the United States Army 11th Airborne as a 544th Field Artillery Battalion Batter B Parachutist stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky from 1951 to 1953.
  3. Archie Edgell – Mr. Edgell served in the United States Army from 1953 to 1955. He was a Korean War Era Veteran. He served in Germany and was part of the Army Band – the Ivy Troubadours. Mr. Edgell received the National Defense Service Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Army Occupation Medial for his service while in Germany.
  4. George Shaw – Mr. Shaw served the United States Air Force with distinction for 28 years, from 1951-1982. He was a Korean and Vietnam War Era Veteran. In this latter regard, he served in Thailand for nine months. He was a highly decorated veteran, having received the following medals: Small Arms Marksmanship ribbon; Good Conduct Army – 1 loop; National Defense Service Medal; Meritorious Service Medal; Air Force Longevity Award (5 Oak Leaf Clusters); Air Force Outstanding Service Award (1 Oak Leaf Cluster); Air Force Conduct Award (6 Oak Leaf Clusters); Air Force Commendation Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters), Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Device; Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal; Joint Service Commendation Medal; Headquarters of Allied Forces in Southern Europe, Naples Italy, Certificate of Appreciation; Vietnam Service Medal with service Star; Vietnam Certificate of Appreciation from 355th Tactical Fighter Wing – “contributed immeasurably to the success of the Unites States Air Force mission in South East Asia, July 1970 – October 1970; and the “Mole Award” for his service underground. Regarding this final award, he served underground Italy for 1,140 days over a 38-month period. He served in Germany for an additional three years – mostly underground. In the bunkers, he was assigned to top-secret communications.
  5. W.A.H. – W.A.H. a Veteran of World War II, including the Rome-Arno Campaign. He served as a member of the United States Army from 1942 to 1945. He received the Meritorious Unit Award and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Service Medal.
  6. Felix McDermott – Mr. McDermott served the United States Army, including active duty service from 1962 to 1968. He was a Vietnam Era Veteran. He received the following medals: Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, and Vietnam Service Medal. He retired from the Pennsylvania National Guard. He served more than 20 years total in the military.
  7. Raymond Golden – Mr. Golden was a Korean War and Vietnam War Era Veteran. He served in the United States Army from 1951 to 1953. He served in the United States Air Force from 1955 to 1973. He served the military as a “load masters,” responsible for loading aircrafts. He served in Vietnam, Panama, and the Philippines.
  8. Russell Posey – Mr. Posey was a World War II Veteran. He served in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946.
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