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Reta Mays Sentenced To Seven Life Terms for V.A. Hospital Murders

FILE - This photo released July 14, 2020, by the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority shows Reta Mays. Mays, a former nursing assistant at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, W.V., is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, May 11, 2021, for her guilty plea to intentionally killing seven patients with fatal doses of insulin. (West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority via AP)

CLARKSBURG — A Harrison County woman who worked as an aide at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg was sentenced Tuesday to seven consecutive life sentences for the murder of veterans at the facility.

Reta Mays, 46, was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Kleeh in the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia to seven consecutive life sentences for the murder of veterans at the facility as well as another 20 years on a charge of assault with attempt to murder for an eighth victim.

She originally pleaded guilty on July 14, 2020.

She pleaded to killing Robert Edge Sr. (U.S. Navy veteran), Robert Kozul (U.S. Army veteran 11th Airborne Division), Archie Edgell (U.S. Army veteran who served in the Korean War), George Shaw Sr. (U.S. Air Force veteran who served 28 years), William Holloway (U.S. Army veteran who served in World War II), Felix McDermott (U.S. Army veteran of 20 years who served in the Vietnam War and went on to serve in the Pennsylvania Nation Guard after he retired) and Raymond Golden (U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force veteran who served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars).

The assault with attempt to murder was against Russell Posey Sr. (US Army veteran who served in World War II).

“Many, if not all, of these gentlemen would be considered part of ‘The Greatest Generation,'” Kleeh said.

“They were good and decent men loved by their families, by their communities and to each one this country owes a tremendous debt.”

Kleeh said it was not Mays’ call or decision to end their lives, but she did it anyway “for reasons that will forever remain unclear.”

“You deprived these families of unknown precious memories and time, the birthday parties, the anniversaries, the birth of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, a decision you were not entitled to make,” the judge said. “There is no explanation, no justification for what you did.”

The defense asked for leniency as Mays herself was a veteran who served in the military and had a number of problems that resulted in her own service in hostile environments including post traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma which led to periods of depression, anxiety, insomnia and other issues which impacted her judgment. They asked for a sentence where Mays would be in prison for 40 years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jarod Douglas read the name of each victim and said the method of their murders required the maximum sentence.

“The defendant’s murderous offenses are shockingly horrific,” he said. “The method was unforgiving and brutal.”

Any explanation will be lacking and the results for the families will be unending, he said.

In arguing against the idea these were “mercy killings,” Douglas said the results of being given unprescribed insulin including tremors, palpitations, anxiety, sweating, hunger and tingling. The effects on the brain include dizziness, weakness, drowsiness, mental status changes and even seizures.

An expert said one case was a result of over 100 units of insulin given, over a syringe full, Douglas said.

“The defendant knew exactly what symptoms were coming, having repeatedly observed them herself,” he said.

Some of the men were making improvement and families were talked to about a plan for them to go home or to a skilled nursing facility before Mays administered the insulin. There is also evidence that Mays accessed patient files to find out information about them.

“This was not a hospice ward,” Douglas said. “This is a medical surgical unit. They did not go here to die. These men were not in need of mercy from the defendant.”

Kleeh said many people who have served in the military have endured such problems from their service, but never took the actions she did. The judge pointed to communications she had with others talking about wanting to cause people harm.

However being a veteran herself, she had access to help and received it. Yet, she kept asking to be allowed to return to work when maybe that would not be the best course of action.

A number of family members of the men killed spoke, either in person or via recorded video messages, to what Mays had done to their loved ones and the families left behind.

“He taught us by example, the difference between right and wrong, the difference between good and evil,” said Robert Edge Jr. of his father Robert Edge Sr., Mays first victim, in a recorded video message. “I do not forgive you for what you have done. I would punish you with my own hands if it would do any good.”

Norma Shaw, the widow of George Shaw, said in a recorded message her husband was taken by an “uncompassionate and ruthless person.”

“I don’t know why Reta did what she did,” Norma Shaw said. “We may never know.

“She took my life away from me. We would have been married 59 years. We had many more years to go.”

Mays did address everyone in the court.

“There are no words I can say that can offer the families any comfort,” she said while sobbing. “I can only say that I am sorry for the pain I have caused the families.

“I don’t ask for forgiveness as I don’t think I could forgive anyone who did what I did.”

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