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Former Pennsylvania nurse sentenced to life in prison for insulin death

A former Pennsylvania nurse who admitted giving excessive doses of insulin to nearly two dozen patients, 17 of whom died, was sentenced to life in prison Thursday after pleading guilty to murder and other charges.

Former nurse Heather Pressdee, 41, administered high doses of insulin to 22 patients at five rehabilitation centers across Pennsylvania between 2020 and 2023, prosecutors said. The patients she was accused of mistreating were between 43 and 104 years old.

Ms. Pressdee was first charged in May 2023 with killing two nursing home patients and injuring a third. But in November, the attorney general's office filed further charges after prosecutors said Ms. Pressdee had admitted killing a total of 19 patients.

According to the Attorney General's Office, first-degree murder charges were brought against Ms. Pressdee only in cases where “physical evidence” was available. Attempted murder charges were filed in cases where “the victims either survived the excessive insulin dose or the cause of death could not be determined.”

At her arraignment in November, Ms. Pressdee's lawyer, Phillip P. DiLucente, said his goal was to avoid the death penalty. The death penalty is legal but rarely used in Pennsylvania.

Ms. Pressdee pleaded guilty Thursday to three counts of first-degree murder and 19 counts of attempted murder. She was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences and another consecutive sentence of 380 to 760 years, according to the Associated Press.

In a criminal complaint filed in November, prosecutors said Ms. Pressdee gave excessive amounts of insulin to patients, mostly during night shifts when staff was short.

Some patients were diabetic, others were not. If a patient did not die, Ms. Pressdee would take additional measures to kill the person by administering a second dose of insulin or by “using an air embolism” when one or more air bubbles blocked a vein or artery, the complaint states .

Prosecutors detailed a history of troubling statements Ms. Pressdee made on social media and in conversations with colleagues, including “When is she going to die?”

In a separate wrongful death lawsuit, nursing home staff found that Ms. Pressdee had exhibited “disturbing behavior” and that the health of patients under her care was “unexpectedly” deteriorating.

Several employees, the lawsuit says, began calling her a “murder nurse.”

Mr. DiLucente and the attorney general's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. According to local news reports, the families of Ms. Pressdee's victims packed the Butler County courtroom Thursday for the victim's statements.

“There is no justice for this,” Melinda Brown, whose brother Nicholas Cymbol, 43, was among Ms. Pressdee's victims, told ABC affiliate WTAE on Thursday. “She will receive justice when she meets her maker.”

Anna Harden

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