It's a disturbing case that shocked the nation and a Westmoreland County veteran was one of the victims.
It happened at the Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia, over a three-day span in April 2018. Investigators say three patients on the same floor, including a local man, died by the same method and had the same cause of death.
The more FBI investigators looked into it, the more they believed there was a serial killer in the hospital.
Felix Kirk McDermott was laid to rest at the Westmoreland County Memorial Park. He was 82 years old. The retired Army sergeant served in Vietnam. He grew up in Ruffs Dale, Westmoreland County.
But his final days were spent near his daughters, at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia.
"It's hard losing a parent," Melanie Proctor said. "I don't care how old you are or expected it is, it's hard losing a parent."
Proctor and her sister, Chris Niehenke, had said their goodbyes. But four months after burying their father, the FBI asked to exhume his body.
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"It wasn't his time, someone took his time away from him," Niehenke said.
An autopsy report confirmed that McDermott did not die of natural causes, but had a shot of insulin in his stomach hours before his death, which caused a sharp dip in his blood sugar level.
"It was a homicide," Proctor said. "That he had an injection of insulin to his stomach, dad wasn't a diabetic. He shouldn't have any insulin anywhere."
His wasn't the only suspicious death. In the previous months "nine or 10 patients had received a large and wrongful injection of insulin that was neither ordered by a doctor or medically necessary" resulting in their deaths.
The FBI and the Department of Veterans Inspector General have a person of interest who has not been charged, a former employee who has since been fired for lying on her resume.
The McDermott family wants an arrest and accountability for their father. They want to know how this could have happened at the VA hospital for months.
"There are checks and balances for a reason and somehow, some way, the checks and balances didn't add up," Proctor said.
The Johnson VA Medical Center says this was an isolated incident and released a statement to Channel 11. We also reached out to the VA's Inspector General Office which declined to comment on the case. Both statements in full are listed below.
VA Medical Center:
Our hearts go out to the families affected by these tragic deaths.
The fact that VA fired the individual at the center of these allegations offers a small measure of accountability, but it is now incumbent on VA’s independent inspector general, which has been investigating this issue for more than a year, to deliver justice.
This was an isolated incident involving a single, now-fired person, and the notion that policies and protocols can somehow stop those intent on committing crimes strains credulity.
To protect against criminal activity and deliver justice, VA relies on organizations such as the independent inspector general, which has known about this issue since June 27, 2018, when Clarksburg VAMC officials reported it to them.
Justice is now dependent on the independent IG’s investigation, and for additional questions on the status of that investigation, we refer you to the independent inspector general. Contacts there are Michael.Nacincik@va.gov and Catherine.Gromek@va.gov
Q: Was the insulin that was used under lock and key? Or did someone have unauthorized access to the insulin?
A: Your question seems to ignore the fact that insulin can be legally purchased without a prescription in many states, including West Virginia.
Clarksburg VAMC has many protocols in place to safeguard medication, but for questions about specific allegations, we refer you to VA’s independent inspector general, which has been investigating this issue for more than a year.
Also, it’s important to note that regulations and protocols can only do so much to protect against criminal activity. To protect against criminal activity and deliver justice, VA relies on organizations such as the independent inspector general, which has been investigating this issue for more than a year.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has been working with our federal law enforcement partners to investigate the allegations of potential wrongdoing resulting in patient deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia.
At this time, we cannot comment further on those activities. As is always the case, the VA OIG works with the Department to identify and urgently address allegations related to patient safety. The car and safety of our veterans and their families remain our top priority.
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