Veterans Disability Info Blog

Multiple Suspicious Deaths at VA Hospital Spurs Investigation

Something is very wrong at a Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital in Clarksburg, West Virginia. There have been at least 11 suspicious deaths at the facility in a two-year period, and federal prosecutors are investigating. Many of these deaths involve incorrect insulin injections in patients, stirring fears there is a serial killer on the loose in the Louis A. Johnson Medical Center.

Insulin Deaths

VA hospital employees were aware that as many as ten patients have died under suspicious circumstances relating to insulin injections. The veterans were initially thought to have succumbed to “unexplained severe hypoglycemia.” In each case, the person received a large amount of insulin in the abdomen, which was not prescribed by a doctor or necessary medically. When large amounts of insulin are injected into non-diabetics, the results are often deadly. 

One patient, Felix “Kirk” McDermott, 82, a Vietnam War and 20-year Army veteran, died on April 9, 2018, after receiving such an injection, although he was not diabetic. McDermott was in the hospital for pneumonia treatment at the time of his demise. He also suffered from dementia and was recovering from the aftereffects of a stroke. 

While he initially improved after hospitalization, the hospital offered no explanation to his family as to why he died from hypoglycemia. McDermott’s death was ruled a homicide by a U.S. Department of Defense deputy medical examiner. 

The pattern was the same as all of the deaths. The patients were not in terminal condition, and many were improving, but they suddenly became very ill with a huge blood sugar increase. 

Three Deaths in Three Days

The second week of April 2018 was an especially grisly time at the Johnson VA Medical Center. Three patients died of insulin overdoses in just three days. McDermott was not the only patient to die in this manner on April 8. The same day, William “Sport” Holloway, 96, died, and his family was originally told he succumbed to sepsis. 

Several months later, investigators informed them Holloway had actually died from an insulin overdose, along with several other patients. Unlike some of the others, Holloway actually did suffer from diabetes, but prior to his death, he endured a 30-hour episode of severe low blood sugar. According to Holloway’s daughter, investigators told her they had received an anonymous tip regarding the veterans’ deaths. 

George Nelson Shaw Sr., 81, died at the hospital on April 10, and his death has also been ruled a homicide. His autopsy revealed the cause of death as insulin administration, and Shaw was not a diabetic. 

This particular string of deaths may have started in March, when Archie Edgell, 94, a diabetic, was admitted to the hospital due to his dementia. Within two days of admission, Edgell’s blood sugar levels plummeted. After his death, the medical examiner wrote that his findings were “strongly suspicious” of unprescribed insulin administration. 

Person of Interest Identified

VA investigators have identified a “person of interest” in the insulin injection deaths, but have not filed criminal charges or publicly named the individual. Investigators have not stated whether the person was employed at the Clarksburg VA facility. 

However, the VA hospital issued a statement that the person of interest is not a current employee. According to one attorney, all of the men were in rooms on Floor 3A at the time of their deaths. The mysterious deaths may have begun as far back in June 2017. 

Since the VA deaths – or killings –have received national attention, federal and state officials have demanded the VA provide an explanation for these deaths. 

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