Poisoner Gets Triple Life Term for Killing 24 Hospital Patients

From Times Wire Services

A former nurse's aide who fed cyanide and other poisons to chronically ill hospital patients pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing 24 people and was sentenced to three consecutive life terms in prison.

Donald Harvey, 35, of Middletown, Ohio, reportedly had admitted killing 54 people, most of whom were chronically ill patients in three Cincinnati hospitals.

He pleaded guilty in 24 of the deaths under a plea-bargaining agreement that will allow him to become eligible for parole in 60 years, when he will be 95.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge William Mathews also ordered Harvey to pay $270,000 in fines, as well as court costs.

"This man is sane, competent, but is a compulsive killer," Hamilton County Prosecutor Arthur Ney Jr. told the judge. "He builds up tension in his body, so he kills people."

Harvey, wearing a brown suit and white sneakers, sat quietly through the hearing Tuesday. He declined the judge's invitation to speak and was led off to the Hamilton County Jail in handcuffs immediately after the sentencing.

Harvey used cyanide, arsenic and a petroleum-based cleaning agent to poison his victims, Ney said. He also pulled the plugs on respirator machines and repeatedly poisoned one roommate who later recovered. On one occasion, Harvey laced the drink of a woman friend with a hepatitis serum to give her the disease. She recovered, the prosecutor said.

Ney agreed not to seek the death penalty in exchange for Harvey's pleading guilty to all criminal charges filed in the case.

The defense attorney, William Whalen, said that Harvey told him he had also killed 30 other people but was vague about the details, except to say that he had wanted to "eliminate their suffering."

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