Nurse charged in eight patient deaths at Woodstock and London long-term care facilities
A 49-year-old woman who worked as a nurse at long-term care facilities in Woodstock and London has been charged with eight counts of first degree murder following a multi-jurisdiction homicide investigation.
The investigation began on Sept. 29, when Woodstock police say they received information that eight people had been murdered between 2007 and 2014.
Due to the nature of the allegations, a multi-jurisdictional major case manager was contacted.
“As you can imagine, this disclosure caused us to immediately assess the information and muster the necessary resources to ensure a thorough investigation of the facts,” said Woodstock Police Chief William Renton at the news conference.
Det. Inspector Rob Hagerman of the OPP Criminal Investigation Branch was assigned to coordinate the investigation by members of the Woodstock Police Service and London Police Service.
Police say the victims were administered a drug. Investigators would not comment on which drug specifically and or a possible motive.
A nurse employed at the facilities, 49-year-old Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer of Woodstock, is charged with eight counts of first degree murder.
The accused appeared at the Ontario Court of Justice in Woodstock on Oct. 25 and was remanded into custody.
Her next appearance will be Nov. 2 via video.
Police say the names of the victims, their age, and their respective care facility are:
- James Silcox, 84, Caressant Care – Woodstock, Aug. 17, 2007
- Maurice Granat, 84, Caressant Care - Woodstock, Dec. 23, 2007
- Gladys Millard, 87, Caressant Care - Woodstock, Oct. 14, 2011
- Helen Matheson, 95, Caressant Care - Woodstock, Oct. 27, 2011
- Mary Zurawinski, 96, Caressant Care - Woodstock, Nov. 7, 2011
- Helen Young, 90, Caressant Care - Woodstock, July 14, 2013
- Maureen Pickering ,79, Caressant Care - Woodstock, March 28, 2014
- Arpad Horvath, 75, Meadow Park - London, August 31, 2014
The Silcox family released a statement Tuesday, saying James was “lovingly remembered by his of more than 64 years, Agnes, their six children, 13 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren and one great great-grandchild.”
He was a member of the Canadian Legion Branch 55 in Woodstock, the statement said, and he retired in the 1980s after 25 years of service.
“We ask that all family members be permitted the time to grief once again in private,” the statement read.
Prior to the police news conference, Caressant Care Woodstock Long Term Care spokesperson Lee Griffi said in a statement that the facility is “cooperating fully with police investigating the actions of a former staff member, a registered nurse.”
The nurse in question stopped working at the home approximately two and a half years ago, Griffi added.
The long-term care home remains in “regular contact” with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term care, Griffi said, explaining that their “highest priority” continues to be to provide for the “physical, social and spiritual needs” of its residents.
“We deeply regret the additional grief and stress this is imposing on the families involved,” Griffi said.
A man leaving the Caressant Care in Woodstock on Tuesday afternoon said the news of the alleged homicdes hasn't changed how he feels about the facility.
“I’m confident about my wife in there. She’s been there for over three years now and the personal support workers and nurses, I think they’re all great in there," Jamie McGowan told CTV News Toronto. "I don’t have a problem with anybody and the workers are really kind and I know they love my wife. I’ve heard them say it. They’d like to take them home they love them so much.”
McGowan said he is confident in the staff, who he describes as "really kind."
Caressant Care operates 15 nursing homes across the province.
At Queen's Park Tuesday morning, Premier Kathleen Wynne called the alleged homicides “extremely distressing.”
During question period, London-Fanshawe NDP MPP Teresa Armstrong asked Wynne how the incidents went undetected for 10 years by government authorities.
Wynne said she wouldn’t comment on an ongoing police investigation, but called the case a “tragic” situation for all of the families involved.
Police say there is no further immediate threat to patient or community safety.