A former nurse's aide nicknamed "Angel of Death" by unknowing fellow workers pleaded guilty today to the killings of at least 24 people, many of them patients at a county-owned hospital, and was sentenced to three consecutive life prison terms.
Donald Harvey entered the guilty pleas and was sentenced the same day a special Hamilton County grand jury indicted him on 28 counts, including 23 counts of aggravated murder.
Harvey also pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated murder from a previous indictment in the death last March of a Drake Hospital patient. The indictments covered a period from April, 1983, to December, 1986.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Arthur Ney Jr. said Harvey agreed to plead guilty to all 29 counts to avoid a possible death sentence. Ney said Harvey would not be eligible for parole for 60 years.
The indictments, displayed on a 4-by-6-foot easel at the Hamilton County Courthouse, accused Harvey of 23 counts of aggravated murder, 4 of attempted aggravated murder and 1 count of felonious assault.
Harvey, 35, of Middletown, showed no emotion and declined an offer from Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge William S. Mathews to comment on the proceedings.
"When we received this confession, we experienced . . . devastation at the story this man told as a matter of fact," Ney told the judge.
Not all of the victims named in the indictments died immediately, Ney said. And at least one, a former roommate of Harvey, is still alive, Ney said.
Harvey, Ney said, "is sane, competent, but is a compulsive killer."
"He builds up tension in his body, so he kills people," Ney said. "He even told me that he had a list of the victims he killed. We went out and we found it, behind a picture in the frame."
The indictments said 21 of Harvey's alleged victims were Drake patients. Six others were killed outside a hospital, and two died of injuries received by a poisoning administered three to four weeks earlier.
Harvey allegedly used cyanide, arsenic, hepatitis serum, rat poison and suffocation in the attacks, according to the indictments.
The investigation was launched after WCPO-TV, in June, reported that Drake employees had complained of 23 unusual deaths in the ward where Harvey worked. The station claimed that the workers had been silenced by hospital supervisors.