Ex-nurse who killed 8 elderly patients begins hearing from victims’ family members, friends
Former nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer is in a Woodstock, Ont., courtroom this morning to hear the victim impact statements of 19 friends and relatives of the eight people she killed while they were under her care at various nursing homes.
Wettlaufer, 49, is also expected to address the victims’ loved ones later Monday, though her lawyer told the court that he’s concerned her tone is “very matter of fact.”
Earlier this month, Wettlaufer pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault.
Justice Bruce Thomas told the family members to take their time when reading their victim impact statements.
“This is an important experience for you,” Thomas said.
In total, 28 victim impact statements were received by the court, and 19 will be read aloud.
Court also heard that Wettlaufer was visited in jail by her parents yesterday, but that they won’t be in court Monday.
Wettlaufer will be sentenced for fatally drugging the seniors while working as a registered nurse overseeing the night shifts in care homes in Woodstock and London in southwestern Ontario.
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“I don’t really want to hear from her. She did what she did. How do you apologize for that? The whole thing just makes me sick and angry,” Laura Jackson, whose friend Maurice (Moe) Granat, 84, was among Wettlaufer’s victims, said before Monday’s hearing.
“I don’t ever want [Wettlaufer] to breathe free air again. I want her to live in a box and contemplate what she’s done and know that because of her actions she’s put herself into a box,” Jackson said.
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It won’t be the first time family members have heard from Wettlaufer — her video confession was played for the court after she pleaded guilty.
But it will be the first time they will hear directly from their loved ones’ killer, and it will be the first time they will be able to address her through victim impact statements, detailing how the deaths of their loved ones have affected their lives.
“I’ve submitted mine, but I’m not going to read it,” Jackson said. “What I have to say is very personal.”
Sentence is predetermined
Wettlaufer’s sentence is predetermined in Canadian law, but how she will serve that sentence is up in the air.
She will get life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years for the first-degree murder charges, 10 years for the four attempted murders and seven years for the aggravated assaults.
The Crown and defence have agreed to ask for the sentences to be served concurrently, but the judge has the final say.
Stephen Harper’s Conservative government changed the legal rules, allowing judges the discretion to impose first-degree murder sentences consecutively — meaning Wettlaufer could be the first person in Canada to be sentenced to 200 years in prison.
“It will certainly be interesting to see the length of her [sentence],” said Ingrid Grant, a criminal defence lawyer who has been closely watching the case.
If the judge determines Wettlaufer should serve her sentences concurrently, she’ll be eligible for parole at the age of 74.
“There’s a strange irony because there are some people who say ‘they’ll only get out when they’re very old and have to be put in nursing care,’ but that’s the last place where Ms. Wettlaufer should go because that’s where she committed her crimes,” Grant said.
She thinks it’s unlikely Wettlaufer will ever be granted parole, even if she serves her sentences concurrently.
“It certainly is an odd case. We don’t see very many cases of women committing murder, certainly not in cases like this,” Grant said. “She describes feeling a red surge before she killed, she got some kind of thrill out of it. It’s a really rare circumstance to have for anyone, but particularly a woman.”
Court heard that Wettlaufer used drugs to kill the seniors while she worked at the nursing homes between 2007 and 2014.
Her victims also included: James Silcox, 84, Gladys Millard, 87, Helen Matheson, 95, Mary Zurawinski, 96, Helen Young, 90, Maureen Pickering, 79, and Arpad Horvath, 75.
Court proceedings in Woodstock will be live blogged throughout the day. Follow our reporters for the latest from the court.
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