A pastor prayed over Elizabeth Wettlaufer and told her not to kill again. A lawyer advised the registered nurse to take her murderous secrets to her grave. A Narcotics Anonymous sponsor dismissed her insinuations of harming seniors as the talk of a “pathological liar,” while an ex-boyfriend attributed her confessions of killing nursing home patients to a “psychiatric episode.”
So in September 2016, nine years after the Woodstock, Ont., nurse administered the first fatal insulin injection on a senior in her care, Wettlaufer voluntarily checked herself into a mental health facility in order to make sure her confessions were heeded, not just heard — and they were.
Three weeks after leaving the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto in early October 2016, Wettlaufer was arrested.
On Thursday, the former nurse pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault.
Documents released after court was adjourned detail Wettlaufer’s exhaustive efforts to seek help for what she described as her urges to kill and the numerous occasions on which her words were ignored.
“Elizabeth was very clear that she has told various contacts over the past few years about her actions, and has still not been able to stop after telling them (including a lawyer, a priest, and a sponsor from Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous),” reads a discharge document prepared by CAMH on Oct. 5, 2016.
“Elizabeth stated that she came to CAMH to talk openly about her actions, get the help she needed, and become better prepared for the eventual reporting of her actions to both the police and College of Nursing.”
Wettlaufer had practised successfully as a nurse for many years before she began secretly attacking patients, according to her 2.5-hour interview with police that was played in court on Thursday.
It was when she took a job at the Caressant Care Nursing Home in Woodstock, Ont., that she reportedly began losing control.
Wettlaufer told police that her marriage had fallen apart in February 2007 after her husband grew suspicious that she was involved with another woman.
Months later, Wettlaufer told police, she administered her first intentional overdose to Clotilde Adriano, 87, a patient with dementia.
“I was so angry and it was like a voice said inside me, ‘I’ll use you, don’t worry about it,’” she told Woodstock police during her confession.
“…I believe it was the influence of that voice or whatever it was…And when I would do it afterwards I would hear like a laughter in my tummy.”
Wettlaufer gave intentional overdoses to both Adriano and her sister, Albina DeMedeiros, that year, both of whom survived.
Her first murder victim was James Silcox, 84, was recovering from hip surgery.
She told police that she felt remorse after Silcox’s 2007 death, particularly when family members called her a good nurse and praised her care of their relative.
Yet Wettlaufer also said that her first murder made her feel “like a pressure lifted from my emotions.”
Later that year, Wettlaufer gave a fatal insulin injection to Maurice Granat. The following year, she tried the same against Michael Priddle and Wayne Hedges, both of whom survived.
It was also in 2008 that Wettlaufer said she made her first attempt to share what she’d done.
According to her police confession, she told a former girlfriend that she had killed two people already. The woman threatened to report the incidents if Wettlaufer killed again, she said.
CAMH documents also suggest Wettlaufer sought psychiatric treatment somewhere in this time period. The documents reference a stay in a local psychiatric unit that she found unsatisfactory, and mention that she continued to see a psychiatrist in Woodstock despite not having a high opinion of him. There is no indication whether psychiatric professionals learned of her activities.
The agreed statement of facts said Wettlaufer told a student nurse about the deaths between 2009 and 2011, a time during which she was not giving any suspicious injections. The statement said the student indicated her intention to report what she’d heard, but Wettlaufer talked her out of it saying no one would believe her account.
Documents show that the confessions stopped shortly after this, but the killings resumed.
Between 2011 and 2013, Wettlaufer killed Gladys Millard, 87, Helen Matheson, 95, Mary Zurawinski, 96, and 90-year-old Helen Young.
She had tried immersing herself in religion during this time and turned to her pastor after being plagued with guilt over the death of Young, who suffered a seizure after receiving multiple insulin injections.
Wettlaufer told police she felt God was failing her by preventing her from killing, prompting her to pour out her confessions at the pastor’s kitchen table.
“I went to the pastor and I told him what had happened, and he prayed over me because he said that was the last thing he would have thought out of me,” she said in her confession.
“And his wife there, too, and they prayed over me, and they said to me how this is God’s grace…but if you ever do this again we will have to turn you in to the police.”
Months later, in March 2014, Wettlaufer killed Maureen Pickering, 79, days before getting fired from the Caressant Care home for an unrelated, allegedly unintentional medication mixup.
She was employed again within a month at the Meadow Park nursing home in London, Ont., and shortly thereafter she killed her final victim, 75-year-old Arpad Horvath.
That year, Wettlaufer told police, she consulted a criminal lawyer who advised her to remain silent about her actions and seek help for mental-health issues. Her confessions to a Narcotics Anonymous sponsor and a former boyfriend were also dismissed, according to the statement of fact.
Wettlaufer, now working as an itinerant nurse at various private and nursing homes, tried to kill two more seniors, Sandra Towler and Beverly Bertram — both survived — before finally checking herself into CAMH.
Days after the attempt to kill Bertram, Wettlaufer learned she was to be reassigned to work with diabetic children.
The prospect terrified Wettlaufer, who realized she could not control her impulses.
She initially drove off to Quebec with the intention of escaping her life, but then decided to turn around and face her actions,” reads the CAMH discharge document.
Wettlaufer said she returned to Woodstock and pretended to go to work for about two weeks to prevent her parents from finding out what was wrong.
Eventually, she said, she quit her nursing jobs to seek help.
“I didn’t want to hurt anybody any more,” she told police.
Wettlaufer will return to court for sentencing on June 26.
Follow @mich_mcq on Twitter
Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press