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Kristen GILBERT

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Nurse - Prosecutors had argued that she wanted to attract attention, especially from her lover, a hospital security guard
Number of victims: 4 +
Date of murders: 1995 - 1996
Date of arrest: July 11, 1996
Date of birth: November 13, 1967
Victims profile: Stanley Jagodowski, 66 / Henry Hudon, 35 / Kenneth Cutting, 41 / Edward Skwira, 69 (hospitalized veterans)
Method of murder: Poisoning (injecting them with overdoses of epinephrine)
Location: Northampton, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, USA
Status: Sentenced to four consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole, plus 20 years on March 27, 2001
 
 

 

Department of Psychology
Radford University

 
information
 
 

 
 

Kristen Gilbert (born November 13, 1967 as Kristen Strickland in Fall River, Massachusetts) is an American serial killer who was convicted for three first-degree murders, one second-degree murder, and two attempted murders of patients admitted for care at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Northampton, Massachusetts. She killed her patients by injecting them with epinephrine, causing them to have heart attacks.

As a child, Kristen Strickland exhibited a high scholastic aptitude. As she entered her teen years, friends and family took notice that she had become a habitual liar and was prone to neurotic behavior. She graduated from high school at age sixteen, graduated from Greenfield Community College, and received licensure as a registered nurse in 1988. Later that year, she married Glenn Gilbert. In 1989, she joined the staff of the VAMC in Northampton. She distinguished herself early on, and was featured in the magazine VA Practitioner in April 1990.

Although other nurses noticed a high number of deaths on Gilbert's watch, they passed it off and jokingly called her 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 ensued. Gilbert telephoned in a bomb threat to attempt to derail the investigation.

Gilbert's motives are not clear. Staff at the Northampton VAMC have speculated that her intent was to demonstrate her nursing skills by creating emergency situations, since there were an unusual number of cardiac arrests during the time in question and many of the patients survived. Others claim that she was using these emergency situations to gain the attention of James Perrault, a VA police officer who later had an affair with Gilbert. VA hospital rules required that hospital police be present at any medical emergency.

VA hospital staff members speculate that Gilbert may have been responsible for eighty or more deaths and over three hundred medical emergencies.

The prosecutor in her case, Assistant U.S. Attorney William M. Welch II, asserted that Gilbert was having an affair with VA police officer Perrault at the hospital. Perrault testified against Gilbert, saying that she confessed at least one murder to him. Defense attorney David P. Hoose claimed reasonable doubt based on a lack of direct evidence.

Kristen Gilbert, who had two children and was divorced from Glenn Gilbert, was convicted on March 14, 2001 in federal court. Though Massachusetts does not have capital punishment, her crimes were committed on federal property and 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.

Gilbert was transferred from a federal prison for women in Framingham, MA, to a federal prison in Texas, where she has remained ever since. She is serving her sentence at Carswell Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. Gilbert dropped her federal appeal for a new trial after a recent US Supreme Court ruling that would have allowed prosecutors to pursue the death penalty upon retrial.

Gilbert was the subject of Perfect Poison, a book by Connecticut author M. William Phelps.


Nurse Sentenced to Life in Prison for Killing Patients at Hospital

Assocated Press

March 27, 2001

SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts - A former veterans hospital nurse who killed four patients by injecting them with a heart  stimulant was spared the death penalty when a federal jury decided she should spend rest of her life in prison.

Kristen Gilbert, 33, could have been sentenced to lethal injection, which would have made her the only woman on federal death row.

U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor on Monday formalized the jury's recommendation, sentencing Gilbert to four consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole. He also  sentenced her to two 20-year terms for trying to kill two other veterans, and to several lesser  charges.

Ponsor could not have overruled the jury to impose the death penalty. Before the formal sentencing, he allowed some relatives of the victims a  last chance to speak.

Claire Jagadowski told the judge of the loss of her husband, 66-year-old Stanley Jagadowski: ''I still listen for his key in the door. Now I have to face old age alone.''

Gilbert declined an opportunity to address the judge. She wept softly when the jury's decision was read.

Her father and grandmothers had pleaded with jurors to let her live, saying a death sentence would be devastating to them and Gilbert's two sons.

''It's a very bittersweet day when you think your daughter is going to get life  imprisonment instead of the death penalty,'' said Gilbert's father, Richard  Strickland.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Welch had called Gilbert a ''shell of a  human being'' who deserved to die for the cold and calculating way she  murdered her victims: injecting them with overdoses of the heart stimulant  epinephrine, also called adrenaline, causing their hearts to race out of  control.

Prosecutors had argued that she wanted to attract attention, especially  from her lover, a hospital security guard, for the way she handled herself during emergencies.

Gilbert was convicted March 14 of the first-degree murder in the deaths of three veterans. She also was convicted of second-degree murder, which is not subject to the death penalty, in the death of a fourth veteran, and of trying to kill two other veterans.

Defense attorneys said a life term in prison was a punishment harsh enough for a young woman convicted on evidence they said was only circumstantial. They had argued that the deaths were due to natural causes.

''It is easier to incite good and decent people to kill when their target is not human but a demon,'' defense attorney Paul Weinberg said. ''Kristen Gilbert is not a monster, she is a human being.''

Jurors deliberated for less than six hours Friday and Monday on whether to impose the death penalty. Since they were not unanimous, the sentence defaulted to life in prison.

In the past century, only two women have been executed by the federal government. There is no state death penalty in Massachusetts, but Gilbert was eligible for it under federal laws because her crimes took place on federal property, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northampton.

Prosecutors said Gilbert confessed to the murders to the security guard and her estranged husband. Gilbert's lawyers attacked those confessions.


Murderous Nurse Escapes Death Penalty

By Adam Gorlick - ABCNews.go.com

March 26, 2001

A former veterans hospital nurse who killed four patients by overdosing them with medicine was spared the death penalty today when a federal jury decided she should spend the rest of her life in prison.

Kristen Gilbert, 33, could have been sentenced to lethal injection and would have become the only woman on federal death row. A federal judge was expected to make the jury's recommendation a formal sentence this afternoon.

There was no audible reaction in the courtroom as the decision to spare Gilbert was announced. Her parents wept and most of the victims' families sat stone-faced.

Her father and grandmothers pleaded with jurors to let her live, saying a death sentence would be devastating to them and Gilbert's two sons.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney William Welch called Gilbert a "shell of a human being" who deserved to die for the cold and calculating way she murdered her victims, injecting them with overdoses of the heart stimulant epinephrine, also called adrenaline, which made their hearts race out of control. Prosecutors had argued that she wanted to attract attention, especially from her lover, a hospital security guard.

'Kristen Gilbert Is Not a Monster'

Defense attorneys said a life term in prison was a punishment harsh enough for a young woman convicted on evidence they said was nothing more than circumstantial. They had argued that the deaths were due to natural causes.

"It is easier to incite good and decent people to kill when their target is not human but a demon," defense attorney Paul Weinberg said. "Kristen Gilbert is not a monster, she is a human being."

Gilbert's trial began with jury selection last October. Opening statements were given in November.

Gilbert was convicted March 14 of the first-degree murder in the deaths of three veterans. She also was convicted of second-degree murder, which is not subject to the death penalty, in the death of a fourth veteran, and of trying to kill two other veterans.

After the sentencing phase of the trial, jurors deliberated for less than six hours Friday and today.

Victim's Sister Hoped for Death Penalty

Christine Duquette, whose brother, Henry Hudon, 35, who was killed in 1995, was one of the relatives who had hoped for a death sentence. The life sentence, she said Monday, "wouldn't have been my first choice, but I'm happy it's over. It's over and done with finally. I'm not disappointed."

In the past century, only two women have been executed by the federal government. There is no state death penalty in Massachusetts, but Gilbert was eligible for it under federal laws because her crimes took place on federal property, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northampton.

Gilbert's trial marked only the third time a federal capital murder case has gone to trial in a state that didn't have the death penalty. The other two defendants also escaped a death sentence; those cases were in the 1990s.

Defense attorney David Hoose said he was "very gratified to see that this jury reflected the values of the pioneer valley and greater Massachusetts and spared Kristen's life."

"Where there is life there is hope," Hoose said. "We will appeal. We will continue to fight."

A Spiral Into Destruction

Prosecutors said Gilbert confessed to the murders to both the boyfriend and her estranged husband. Gilbert's lawyers attacked those confessions.

Hoose described his client as a normal young woman who suffered overwhelming emotional stress after her grandfather's death, the ruin of her marriage and her affair with the hospital security guard.

"I don't know what caused her to break down and spiral to the depths of where she is today," Hoose said. "I don't know that anyone could tell you the answer to that."

Welch said Gilbert's stress had nothing to do with her becoming a murderer in 1995 and 1996.

"This defendant did not snap," he said. "People do not snap for a period of seven months when they kill four human beings."

Gilbert was convicted earlier for phoning an anonymous bomb threat to the hospital during the investigation of the deaths. She served 15 months.


Kristen Gilbert convicted of murdering four patients

March 14, 2001

Killer nurse Kristen Gilbert was convicted of murdering four patients in a Northampton VA hospital in what prosecutors said was an attempt to impress her security guard boyfriend. Though Massachusetts banned capital punishment in 1984, Gilbert, 33, could still get the death penalty because the murders ocurred in a federal building. The jury reached its verdict after 12 days of deliberations.

On May 15, 1999, federal prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty for Death Angel, Kristen Gilbert. The former nurse in the intensive care unit in a Northhampton VA hospital is charged with injecting fatal drug overdoses in four patients under her care and trying to kill three others in 1995 and 1996.

"The four murders were especially cruel and heinous," said United States Attorney Donald Stern, who is charging under a federal law that authorizes the death penalty even in states where there is no capital punishment. Gilbert, who is currently in prison serving jail time for a bomb threat conviction, was first charged in November with killing three patients - Henry Hudon, 35, Kenneth Cutting, 41, and Edward Skwira, 69. Then they added Stanley Jagodowski, 66, to her indictment.

All four veterans appeared to have died of heart attacks. But autopsies, three of which were performed after the bodies were exhumed, showed they had died of ephinephrine - a heart stimulant naturally produced as adrenaline - poisoning. Prosecutors said Gilbert asked a supervisor on February 2, 1996, if she could leave work early if a very ill patient were to die. Kenneth Cutting, who was blind and had multiple sclerosis, died 40 minutes later. Authorities have said that Gilbert was on duty when 37 of 63 patients in her Ward C died. Empty ampules of ephinephrine were found near where Cutting died.

In court prosecutors said Gilbert murdered because she liked the thrill of medical emergencies and wanted to impress her boyfriend. Assistant U.S. Attorney William Welch showed pictures of each of the four men -- including one of Stanley Jagodowski in a wheelchair with two grandchildren on his lap. He said each man had a normal heart when he entered the intensive care unit and Gilbert tried to cover her tracks by falsifying medical reports. Welch said Gilbert didn't like to work hard, but was "very, very smart" and the one area in which she excelled was in codes, or medical emergencies. She liked emergencies because they attracted attention from her peers and from James Perrault, her boyfriend who worked as a hospital security guard, the prosecutor said. Gilbert also confessed her crimes to her ex-boyfriend and her estranged husband, but defense attorneys discounted the confessions, saying she made them while hospitalized and suffering from stress.

In closing arguments prosecutors said the serial nurse used the "perfect poison" to kill her victims. "These seven victims were veterans," Assistant U.S. Attorney Ariane Vuono told jurors. "They were vulnerable. They were the perfect victims. When Kristen Gilbert killed them, she used the perfect poison." Lawyers for Gilbert argued that the patients died of natural causes. They say Gilbert was falsely accused by co-workers who were upset that she was having an extramarital affair. "She was scorned by her peers and her co-workers," defense attorney David Hoose told the jury. "You must understand how rumors about what was going on in Kristen Gilbert's life affected, colored and tainted everyone's opinions of what was going on in Ward C."


Prosecutors seek death penalty for Va nurse

Associated Press

May 25, 1999

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) -- A former Veterans Affairs nurse already accused of murdering three patients was charged today with killing a fourth, and federal prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty.

Kristen Gilbert, 31, was charged in November with killing three patients with a lethal dose of drugs and attempting to kill two at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Northampton. She pleaded innocent.

With the charges filed today, she faces four murder charges and a third attempted murder count.

Prosecutors have not publicly stated a motive in the case.

Gilbert is accused of giving the patients fatal doses of epinephrine, which can over-stimulate the heart.

Phoned in bomb threats

The new indictment names Stanley Jagodowski, 66, a retired truck driver who died on Aug. 22, 1995. She was already accused of killing Henry Hudon, 35; Kenneth Cutting, 41; and Edward Skwira, 69.

"In the event of a conviction, a sentence of death is justified, and ... the government will seek the death penalty," Assistant U.S. Attorney William M. Welch said in a court document.

A staffer at the office of Gilbert's lawyer, Harry Miles, said he would have no comment.

From January 1995 until February 1996, a total of 37 patients -- an unusually high number -- died on Gilbert's ward while she was on duty, according to federal investigators.

She was sentenced in April 1998 to a 15-month prison sentence for phoning in bomb threats to the hospital after she came under suspicion.

At least eight wrongful death claims have been filed against the hospital, seeking to link patient deaths to Gilbert.


Va nurse charged with capital murder

Accused of poisoning 4 elderly patiens

APBnews.com

May 14, 1999

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Calling her actions "heinous and depraved," federal prosecutors announced a fourth murder charge against a former veterans hospital nurse and said they would seek the death penalty.

In a grand jury indictment unsealed today, Kristen Gilbert, 31, was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of a 66-year-old patient in 1995. She also faces a count of attempted murder involving another patient.

Prosecutors said the death penalty is warranted in Gilbert's case because she committed the murders of especially vulnerable patients in an especially cruel manner, with substantial planning.

"The defendant allegedly murdered four particularly vulnerable patients and tried to kill three other patients while they lay in their hospital beds," said U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern. "She did so using her position of trust and her specialized knowledge as a nurse."

Patients died of lethal doses

The latest charge accuses Gilbert, who worked as a nurse at the VA hospital in Northampton, of administering a lethal dose of the heart stimulant epinephrine to patient Stanley Jagodowski on Aug. 21, 1995. Jagodowski died the following day. His body was exhumed last July for examination.

In November, Gilbert pleaded innocent to three counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and multiple assault charges. Prosecutors say she gave fatal injections to Henry Hudon, 35, Kenneth Cutting, 41, and Edward Skwira, 69. Those incidents occurred between December 1995 and February 1996.

Autopsy results showed the three men died as a result of epinephrine poisoning, not heart attacks as originally thought. Gilbert also is charged with the attempted murder of Francis Marier, a patient who was injected with epinephrine and insulin on Dec. 20, 1995.

Threatened to bomb hospital

She had earlier been charged with attempted murder of two other patients, Angelo Vella and Thomas Callaghan Gilbert, and served a 15-month prison sentence for threatening to bomb the VA hospital in 1996. Evidence presented in trial showed Gilbert knew she was under investigation for murder at the time of the bomb threat, prosecutors said.

According to court documents, a multi-agency investigation showed 37 deaths -- an extremely high number -- occurred in Gilbert's ward during times she was on duty from the fall of 1989 to February 1996.

Gilbert has been in federal custody -- held without bail -- since the original indictment was filed late last year.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general said no additional charges are likely to be filed against Gilbert and that "for all intents and purposes" the investigation is over.



Kristen Gilbert

 

Kristen Gilbert

 

 

 
 
 
 
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