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Under treatment for addiction, a nurse confesses to murdering 8 elderly patients

Elizabeth Wettlaufer, a nurse accused in the murder of eight elderly patients in southern Ontario, leaves the courthouse in Woodstock, Ontario, Oct.
(Geoff Robins AFP/Getty Images)

The investigation of a nurse accused this week of murdering eight elderly patients began last month after she allegedly shared information about the deaths with staff members at a Toronto mental health facility where she was receiving treatment, according to Canadian news reports.

Elizabeth Wettlaufer, a 49-year-old nurse, was arrested Monday and charged with eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of three men and five women at two Ontario nursing homes between 2007 and 2014.

Their ages ranged between 75 and 96, according to police, who said Wettlaufer administered a drug to kill them. Several reportedly suffered from dementia.

Those were some of the details that have been reported in what could end up being one of Canada’s worst serial killings.

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Workers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, where Wettlaufer was being treated for addiction issues, notified Toronto police on Sept. 29 that she was responsible for several killings.

After interviewing Wettlaufer, Toronto police referred the case to Ontario Provincial Police and municipal police in Woodstock and London, the Ontario cities where the deaths occurred.

Police have not said what drug Wettlaufer allegedly used, but court documents cited in media reports hint that it could be insulin, which in certain doses is known to be lethal.

On Oct. 6, Wettlaufer was placed under a peace bond, a legal mechanism similar to a restraining order, in which she agreed not to possess insulin or other medication not for personal use.

In the last two years, Wettlaufer had not worked at either of the nursing homes where the deaths occurred. But she reportedly was employed by two home-care agencies as recently as this summer.

She registered as a nurse with Ontario’s College of Nurses in 1995, but resigned the day after the police investigation began.

She goes by the name “Bethe Wettlaufer” on Facebook, where she posted photographs of her family and her cats, along with recipes and musings about growing old.

Wade Messenger, her neighbor in a Woodstock apartment building, told the The Globe and Mail newspaper that Wettlaufer was addicted to opioids and that in September she admitted to being fired from one nursing job for stealing drugs and another for being under the influence and giving a patient the wrong medication.

On the AllPoetry.com website, she posted poems under the name “bettyweston” and described herself as having “an active and full life” and a love of the English language.

In a poem that she posted five years ago, Wettlaufer described a gory scene in which a woman uses a knife to slice up a man. Its title is “Inevitable.”

If convicted on all eight counts of first-degree, premeditated murder, Wettlaufer could spend the rest of her life behind bars.

In Canada, first-degree murder carries a minimum 25-year prison sentence before a convict is eligible for parole. A judge could order her to serve multiple terms consecutively.

Guly is a special correspondent.

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