CLARKSBURG, W. Va. (KDKA/AP) – A former staffer at a Veterans Affairs hospital in West Virginia is being charged with killing seven patients by giving them fatal doses of insulin, according to court documents unsealed Tuesday.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Reta Mays, a former nursing assistant at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia, is being charged with second-degree murder in the deaths of seven people and assault with the intent to commit murder of an eighth person.

The 46-year-old from Harrison County, West Virginia pleaded guilty to the charges in federal court. She faces life in prison for each murder count and 20 years in prison for the assault with the intent to commit murder count.

One of the victims was a retired Army sergeant from Westmoreland County, 82-year-old Felix McDermott. He died in April 2018. Officials said he received insulin before he died, even though he was not diabetic.

His daughter filed a lawsuit against the federal government over her father’s wrongful insulin injection. The lawsuit alleges an employee who administered the injection was not qualified to be a nursing assistant and that hospital staff failed to take appropriate action to stop the employee from giving the shots.

(Photo Credit: McDermott Family)

Mays’ attorney did not immediately return a voicemail seeking comment. She has a plea hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

A federal judge was informed of the charges by U.S. Attorney Bill Powell’s office ahead of Mays’ plea hearing. Powell had described the probe of at least 11 patient deaths at the hospital as a top priority. Robert Wilkie, the Veterans Affairs secretary, had called for an expedited investigation into the deaths.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who previously expressed “grave concerns over the pace of the investigation” to Attorney General William Barr, told reporters last year that the FBI was involved and that the bodies of victims were being exhumed. Manchin said then that the VA inspector general told his office that the probe was opened in July 2018, after at least nine patients were diagnosed with unexplained low blood sugar.

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“While overdue, today justice is finally being served,” Manchin said in a statement Tuesday. “I hope today’s announcement brings some semblance of peace to their hearts and to the families who are still uncertain about the fate of their Veterans.”

The VA is the government’s second-largest department, responsible for 9 million military veterans. The agency’s former director was fired in 2018 in the wake of a bruising ethics scandal and a mounting rebellion within the agency, and the doctor who Trump nominated to replace him had to withdraw his nomination amid accusations of misconduct.

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