Updated Tuesday, May 11, 2021 at 2:00 p.m.
A former nursing assistant who admitted to murdering veterans at a Clarksburg, West Virginia hospital will spend the rest of her natural life behind bars.
Reta Mays, 46 of Reyondsville, West Virginia, was handed seven life sentences plus 20 years during a sentencing hearing on Tuesday.
Mays admitted in July to seven counts of second-degree murder and one count of assault with intent to murder veterans seeking care at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center. According to prosecutors, Mays unnecessarily injected veterans with insulin, causing sudden hypoglycemic events that ultimately led to the deaths.
During a Tuesday sentencing hearing, Judge Thomas Kleeh heard from family members of victims, attorneys for both the prosecution and the defense, and Mays herself.
Prosecutors said more than 30 family members of victims joined the hearing in the courtroom and others joined through a video conference set up by the court. Some victims’ families offered gut-wrenching statements to the court — both in person and through prepared video.
Many expressed being unable to forgive Mays, including Robert Edge Jr., the son of 82-year-old Navy veteran Robert Edge, who submitted a video message to the court.
“You murdered my father without cause or reason,” Edge said in the video. “As you hear my words, I want them to play in your mind over and over and over again till the day you die. And by dying — I mean by any means possible — including taking your life with your own hands.”
Melanie Proctor, the daughter of 82-year-old Army veteran Felix McDemott, spoke in the courtroom.
“You took some of the greatest men of their time — our loved ones, our veterans — and you preyed on them when they were at their weakest,” Proctor said. “For that, you are a coward. If you have any morals at all, you will give the other families the peace of mind of knowing the truth of what happened to their loved ones. May God forgive you, as I never will.”
Mays worked the overnight shift at the hospital, often unsupervised, from 2015 to 2018. While speaking briefly during Tuesday’s hearing, she offered no explanation for committing the killings.
“There’s no words I can say that would offer any comfort. I can only say I’m sorry for the pain I caused the families and my family,” Mays said as she wept. “I don’t ask for forgiveness, because I don’t think I can forgive anyone for doing what I did.”
Jay McCamic, defense attorney for Mays, outlined a long history of mental illness and trauma that she suffered during her own time in the military while serving in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.
McCamic said Mays suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma that occurred during her time served, and asked the court to sentence her to 30 years.
“Many, many people ask why, why did Reta do this?” McCamic said to the court. “Most people want to have a nice, linear story applied to the conspiracy, a unified motive of why someone would set upon the idea of taking the life of others and go forth with that idea. Unfortunately, why is not a question that can be answered here. Reta doesn’t know why. Her family doesn’t know why.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jarod Douglas read the names of Mays’ victims — who also included Robert Lee Kozul Sr., 89; Archie D. Edgell, 84; William Holloway, 96; George Nelson Shaw Sr., 81; Raymond Golden, 88; and Russell R. Posey Sr., 92 — as he addressed the court.
“They are what today is all about,” Douglas said. “Judgment day has come.”
He called her actions “predatory and planned, not reactionary.”
“These men were not in need of mercy by the defendant. In the end it wasn’t the defendant’s call to make,” Douglas said.
While handing down the sentences, Kleeh acknowledged Mays’ mental health struggles throughout her life, but noted that the murders were calculated and intentional. He noted that over the course of the killings — which took place from 2017 to 2018 — Mays conducted internet searches on female serial killers and watched the Netflix series Nurses Who Kill.
Kleeh told Mays she was “not special” despite her mental health diagnosis and other struggles she had endured.
“Several times your counsel made the point that you shouldn’t be considered a monster,” Kleeh told her. “Respectfully, I disagree with that. You are the worst kind. You’re the monster that no one sees coming.”