The twisted tale of killer nurse Kristen Gilbert
Kristen Gilbert is not a nurse that we would be celebrating right now in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. This serial killer is something that audiences have seen on many TV series either about cops or set in the medical field, an Angel of Death. Over the course of her career, Gilbert was potentially responsible for hundreds of cardiac arrests by inducing them through epinephrine, then resuscitating them.
While we are celebrating, applauding, and donating to those on the frontlines battling COVID-19 in hospitals, we should also remember the less than altruistic members as well. Here’s the story of Kristen Gilbert.
People knew that something wasn’t right with Kristen Strickland when she hit her teenage years. The elder of the two Strickland daughters, Kristen’s parents were an electronics executive and a part-time teacher/homemaker. The family lived in a well-to-do suburb in Massachusetts. Kristen was a gifted student and a member of the math club.
Underneath the good student facade, however, was something else. Reportedly, Kristen was a habitual liar and would fake suicide attempts in order to manipulate people. This would continue throughout her college years where she attended Bridgewater State College. Court records said that Gilbert would make violent threats against others.
Following a fake suicide attempt, the College thought Kristen should seek psychiatric treatment. Kristen, however, transferred to Mount Wachusett Community College followed by Greenfield Community College, where she completed her nursing degree.
Reportedly, while working as a home health aide, Kristen purposefully scalded a mentally handicapped child that was under her care.
In 1988, Kristen received her nursing degree and married Glenn Gilbert. The couple would later have two children together. Kristen also began her nursing career at the Northampton Veteran Affairs Medical Center. It was a picture perfect life, despite the troubles that plagued Kristen earlier in her life.
Or was it?
Angel of Death
Following a switch to the night shift at the VA Medical Center, Kristen started a flirtatious relationship with Army vet and night security officer, James Perrault. This flirtation would quickly turn into a full blown affair between the two.
That, however, wasn’t the only drama brewing at the medical center though. Kristen’s co-workers were noticing a string of bad luck for the nurse, who was on duty for some of the hospital’s most distressing medical events. Due to being on shift for so many codes, her colleagues jokingly nicknamed Kristen “The Angel of Death”. They didn’t know how right they were.
Over a seven-year span, it’s estimated that Kristen Gilbert was on duty for half of her wards 350 deaths. It was way, way too much to be a coincidence. Later, it was suspected that Kristen, wanting to impress her boyfriend, began to manufacture scenarios where she saved lives. Others, however, thought that Kristen just liked the attention that came with saving a life. Her true motives remained unknown.
Meanwhile, things at the Gilbert home weren’t going well either. The marriage was on the rocks with Kristen poisoning Glenn’s food and, later, tried to possibly kill him in a civilian hospital where he was being treated. Glenn survived the incident and Kristen left him and the children shortly after, for James Perrault.
Things began to unravel for Kristen Gilbert in the mid-90s following the suspicions of nurses as to the frequency of deaths while Kristen was on shift. Evidence also started to pile up. Stanley J. Jagodowski (66) was admitted for a postoperative bowel obstruction and only required oral medication. An on-duty nurse saw Kristen enter the room with a syringe in her hand and Jagodowski later died that night.
Patients were refusing to go into Kristen Gilbert’s ward, terrified that they were never going to make it out alive. Some didn’t. In Feb. 1996, the nurses filed a formal inquiry against Kristen Gilbert. The listed two deaths along with a decrease in epinephrine as cause for their concern.
Kristen quit her job by then and was unraveling. She was hospitalized for a suicide attempt where she allegedly confessed to Perrault, saying, “I did it! I did it! You wanted to know? I killed all those guys by injection.” Perrault went to the authorities and, in an attempt to throw off the investigation, Kristen called a bomb threat to derail the investigation.
It didn’t work. Out of the many, many deaths that Kristen Gilbert attended, she was charged with four: Henry Hudon, Kenneth Cutting, Edward Skwira, and Stanley Jagodowski.
In 2001, Kristen Gilbert was found guilty on three counts of first degree murder, one count of second degree murder, and two counts of attempted murder by a federal jury. The jury recommended life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as the death penalty was not available in Massachusetts. As her crimes take place on federal land, however, Kristen Gilbert was eligible for the federal death penalty.
Gilbert escaped death by lethal injection, which would have been an ironic end to her life. She’s currently serving her sentence at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas.
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