Kristen Gilbert, born as Kristen Strickland, is a Massachusetts serial killer who was convicted for three first-degree murders and one second-degree murder of her patients who were under her care at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northampton, Massachusetts. She killed her patients by injecting them with epinephrine, causing them to have heart attacks. She was born on November 13, 1967 in Fall River, Massachusetts.
When Kristen Strickland was young, she showed many signs of future success including a high level of scholastic aptitude. However as she entered her teenage years, friends and family took notice that she had become the type of person to lie compulsively and to exhibit neurotic behavior. In spite of these personality traits however she managed to graduate from high school at age sixteen.
A few years later she married another man and together they had a daughter who is now in her late teens. Graduating from Greenfield Community College in 1988 and receiving licensure as a registered nurse during that same year made it apparent that Strickland was on the path to becoming a productive member of society despite her odd personality traits.
She married Glenn Gilbert later that year. She went on to work at the Northampton Veterans Administration Medical Center in 1989 where she eventually distinguished herself by being featured in the magazine VA Practitioner in April 1990.
Kristen Gilbert and Glenn Gilbert had two sons before they divorced in 1998.
Murders by the “Angel of Death”
Despite the numerous deaths that occurred on Gilbert’s watch, this was not initially a concern for her fellow nurses. In fact, they used to joke about how she was the “Angel of Death,” referring to the high number of deaths happening in people under her care.
Fellow nurses report the “Angel of Death”
In 1996, three nurses reported their concern about an increase in cardiac arrest deaths and a decrease in the supply of epinephrine; an investigation unfolded. When Gilbert found out about the investigation, she telephoned in a bomb threat to try to derail the entire thing. She was convicted for 15 months for the bomb threat.
Motive: To prove nursing skills or love?
Kristen Gilbert’s motives were unclear. Hospital staff speculated that she intended to demonstrate her nursing skills by creating medical emergencies since there was a higher than the usual number of medical emergencies during the time in question and the patients seemed to be surviving them. Others claim she wanted to get the attention of VA Police Officer James Perrault whom she later had an affair with. VA hospital rules required that hospital police be present at any medical emergency.
80 deaths and 300 medical emergencies?
The hospital staff speculated that Kristen Gilbert, who worked as a nurse in Massachusetts, may have been responsible for over eighty deaths and over three hundred medical emergencies.
In her case, the prosecutor asserts that she is having an affair with VA police officer Perrault at the hospital. Perrault testified against Kristen Gilbert and claims that she confessed to him over the phone while she was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward that she committed at least one murder. Defense attorney David P. Hoose claims reasonable doubt based on a lack of direct evidence. It’s not proven that any of these things are true yet, but there aren’t enough facts to make a decision either way.
Kristen Gilbert, who is currently serving jail time for a bomb threat conviction, was first charged in November with killing four patients; all of them being veterans appearing to have died of heart attacks. Autopsies were performed after the bodies were exhumed and found that Henry Hudon, Kenneth Cutting, and Edward Skwira and Stanley Jagodowski, had died of epinephrine poisoning – which is an adrenaline stimulant and naturally produced as part of adrenaline.
Prosecutors in Kristen Gilbert’s case said that she requested permission to leave early from a supervisor on February 2, 1996 in case a very ill patient happened to die. Kenneth Cutting was blind and had multiple sclerosis and died 40 minutes later. Authorities said that Gilbert was on duty at the time of 37 of 63 patients’ deaths in her Ward C. Empty ampules of epinephrine were found near where Cutting died.
On March 14, 2001, the jury convicted Gilbert on three counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. Although Massachusetts does not have capital punishment, her crimes were committed on federal property thus subject to the death penalty. However, upon the jury’s recommendation, she was sentenced to life in prison without the chance for parole plus 20 years.