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Senators issue statements on VA deaths guilty plea

Both U.S. Senators from West Virginia released statements on the guilty plea Tuesday by a Harrison County woman accused of killing seven patients at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg.

Reta Mays, 46, pleaded guilty to the accusations in an information by federal prosecutors to seven counts of second-degree murder and one count of assault to commit murder. She’s a former nursing assistant at the Veterans Affairs medical center who injected the veterans with unprescribed dosages of insulin, causing extreme hypoglyemia, or low blood sugar, and their deaths.

“My heart goes out to the families and loved ones who tragically lost a veteran and have had to endure this injustice,” Sen. Joe Manchin said.

“While overdue, today justice is finally being served,” he said. “I hope (Tuesday’s) announcement brings some semblance of peace to their hearts and to the families who are still uncertain about the fate of their veterans.”

Manchin is on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

The U.S. Attorney is seeking the maximum prison time to be imposed upon Mays by Judge Thomas S. Kleeh, life in prison on the seven second-degree murder convictions and at least 20 years on the assault conviction, to be consecutively served. Parole was eliminated in the federal system.

“Our veterans should always feel safe and cared for at our VA hospitals. Period. The situation at the Clarksburg VA was sickening and deeply troubling. It is unacceptable in any setting,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said. “My heart breaks for the families of these veterans, and I know I speak for all West Virginians when I say that we are astounded that something like this could happen.”

Families of the victims deserve answers, too, she said.

“Going forward, it is important that we make sure our veterans receive the best care possible, feel safe while receiving care at our West Virginia VA medical facilities, and tragedies like this never, ever happen again,” Capito said.

Capito and Manchin have been kept apprised of the situation since the early stages of the investigation. The news broke about a year ago someone was killing veterans at the medical center after the daughter of Felix McDermott, who died at the center, filed a notice of claim against the government over the death.

Mays pleaded guilty to killing Robert Edge Sr., 82, in July 2017, Robert Kozul, 89, in January 2018, Archie Edgell, 84, in March 2018, George Shaw, 81, in March 2018, a patient identified as W.A.H., 96, in April 2018; McDermott, 82, in April 2018 and Raymond Golden, 88, in June 2018. The assault with intent to commit murder was of a patient identified as R.R.P., 92.

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