Written By: JASR
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Kristen Gilbert was a nurse who used her profession to kill people. When she switched to the 4 p.m. until midnight shift, strange things started to happen. Patients would die during her shift, but with her competent nursing skills, she was admired by her fellow workers during each incident.
While her fellow nurses noticed a high number of deaths on her watch, they just jokingly gave her the nickname, “The Angel of Death.”
A Habitual Liar
Kristen Gilbert, born Kristen Strickland, was born on November 13, 1967, in Fall River, Massachusetts. She was the elder of two daughters.
During her younger years, Gilbert was a gifted student and a member of the math club. However, she was a habitual liar who faked suicide attempts to manipulate others. This went on throughout her college years.
Her friends say she would boast of being related to Lizzie Borden – a 19th-century serial killer. Gilbert also had a history of making violent threats.
She enrolled at Bridgewater State College in Bridgewater, Massachusetts in 1986. She faked a suicide attempt and was ordered psychiatric treatment by the school’s officials. A year later, she transferred to Mount Wachusett Community College and then to Greenfield Community College.
She graduated with a nursing diploma and became a registered nurse in 1988. She married Glenn Gilbert, whom she met at Hampton Beach, N.H., in the same year.
A “Competent” Nurse
Gilbert landed a job at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northampton, Massachusetts in March 1989. In April 1990, she was featured in the magazine “VA Practitioner.”
Fellow workers would see Gilbert as the social butterfly of the C Ward, with her superiors rating her as “highly skillful.” They also admired how well she would react during medical emergencies.
In 1990, when Gilbert returned from maternity leave after the birth of their first child, she switched to the 4 p.m. until midnight shift where patients would die under her watch. This tripled the medical center’s death rate over the past three years.
Gilbert gave birth to her second child in 1993, but her marriage with her husband was going downhill. She developed a friendship with James Perrault, a security guard at the hospital. Gilbert, who was actively having an affair with Perrault, left her husband and children in 1994.
Other nurses started to become suspicious about the deaths that would always happen during Gilbert’s shift. While many of the patients were old or in poor health, some had no history of heart problems but died of cardiac arrest.
It turns out that Gilbert injected intravenous therapy bags with large doses of epinephrine to induce cardiac arrest. She would respond to the emergency and even resuscitate the patients herself.
Three nurses noticed an increase in cardiac arrest deaths and a decrease in the supply of epinephrine in 1996 – prompting them to report their concern. This resulted in an investigation, but Gilbert called in a bomb threat to derail it. Gilbert left her job at the VA hospital, saying she acquired injuries while at work.
In that same year, Gilbert and Perrault’s relationship had struggled. Federal authorities interviewed Perrault in September. One day, Perrault received a phone call from someone who claimed to have planted three bombs at the hospital. No explosives were found, but similar threats went on during Perrault’s shifts on other days.
Police were able to link Gilbert to the calls. In January 1998, she was tried and convicted of making a bomb threat and sentenced to 15 months in prison.
A Captured Criminal
Gilbert was also starting to get linked to patient deaths at the hospital. She went on trial for murder in the deaths of Henry Hudon, Kenneth Cutting, and Edward Skwira – as well as the attempted murders of Thomas Callahan and Angelo Vella – in November 1998. She was also charged in the death of patient Stanley Jagodowski the following May.
The trial started in November 2000. Prosecutors said Gilbert committed the murders to gain Perrault’s attention. According to prosecutors, she was on duty when more than half of the 350 recorded patient deaths occurred, but defense lawyers argued that the patients died of natural causes.
On March 14, 2001, Gilbert was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder, and two counts of attempted murder. Massachusetts does not have capital punishment, but her crimes were committed on federal property – prompting the death penalty. However, she escaped death by lethal injection, which reports say would have been an ironic demise.
The jury recommended a sentence of life imprisonment on March 26, 2001. The next day, the judge sentenced Gilbert to four consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole with added 20 years.
She was transferred from a prison for women in Framingham, Massachusetts to a special federal prison in Texas. She is serving her sentence at Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas. Gilbert dropped her federal appeal for a new trial in July 2003.
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