Ex-nurse who was ‘far from an angel of mercy’ to seniors she murdered gets 8 concurrent life terms
Former nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer told a court in Woodstock, Ont., on Monday that she was “extremely sorry” for killing eight nursing home patients before being sentenced to eight concurrent life terms in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Elizabeth Wettlaufer’s murder victims:
- James Silcox, 84
- Gladys Millard, 87
- Helen Matheson, 95
- Mary Zurawinski, 96
- Helen Young, 90
- Maureen Pickering, 79
- Aprad Horvath, 75
- Maurice Granat, 84
Superior Court Justice Bruce Thomas called Wettlaufer a predator who was a “shadow of death” that passed over the elderly victims she was supposed to care for and protect.
“She was far from an angel of mercy,” he said. “Instead, she was a shadow of death that passed over [her victims].”
Wettlaufer, 50, will also have to provide a DNA sample for the national criminal database.
It was the culmination of an emotional day, which started with the loved ones and friends of the eight victims reading victim impact statements.
Then, it was Wettlaufer’s turn to speak.
“I caused tremendous pain and suffering and death…. Sorry is much too small a word. I am extremely sorry.”
Thomas could have sentenced Wettlaufer to eight consecutive life terms, meaning 200 years, but chose not to take that option.
He told her she will likely never be paroled.
Earlier this month, Wettlaufer pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault. She will also serve 10 years for each attempted murder, and seven years for each aggravated assault.
She confessed in dramatic videos shown to the court during her trial that she used insulin to kill and injure the nursing home residents between 2007 and 2014.
In total, 28 victim impact statements were received by the court, but only 19 from friends and relatives were read aloud Monday.
“It’s like she died twice,” said the niece of Gladys Millard about mourning her aunt when the 87-year-old died in 2011, and then again in 2016 when she found out she had been murdered.
‘We had no chance to say goodbye’
Thomas told the family members to take their time when reading their victim impact statements.
“This is an important experience for you,” Thomas said.
Many of the family members spoke about blaming themselves for not noticing their loved ones were in peril at the hands of Wettlaufer.
“I placed my mother in the care of a facility I researched, never thinking she would be the victim of a despicable crime,” the daughter of Helen Matheson, 95, said in her victim impact statement.
Others said they worried about family members in long-term-care homes.
“We worry now and are fearful now that our family members are aging,” said a tearful friend of Mary Zurawinski, a 96-year-old who was killed in Woodstock in 2011.
“We had no chance to say goodbye.”
Her grandmother was looking forward to her 100th birthday, Zurawinski’s granddaughter Debora Rivers told court.
Her grandmother’s murder “fills us with hatred and rage,” Rivers said.
After the sentencing, she said her family will try to forgive Wettlaufer because they are Christians, but they will find it very difficult.
“She’s getting what she deserves. I was hoping for at least one consecutive [sentence] so there’d be no chance that she’d get out, but I don’t think she’ll ever get out,” Rivers told reporters.
‘The whole thing makes me sick and angry’
“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.
- WATCH: Elizabeth Wettlaufer confession
- Ex-nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer felt ‘red surge’ before killing elderly patients
Assistant Crown Attorney Fraser Kelly told reporters after the court proceedings that he hoped the guilty pleas give “some measure of closure and comfort” to the families of the victims.
The investigation into Wettlaufer’s crimes was very complex and involved five police jurisdictions: Woodstock, London, Brantford, Ingersoll and Paris, Kelly said.
Prosecutors decided to play Wettlaufer’s confession in court because “the content of her confession wasn’t just peculiar, it was also very detailed. [The public] would never be able to appreciate the nuances of it if we didn’t play it,” he said.
Sentence is predetermined
Wettlaufer’s sentence is predetermined in Canadian law. The question was how she would serve her life terms.
The Crown and defence agreed to ask for the sentences to be served concurrently, but the judge had the final say.
Stephen Harper’s Conservative government changed the legal rules, allowing judges the discretion to impose first-degree murder sentences consecutively.
“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,” Ingrid Grant, a criminal lawyer who has been following the case, told CBC News.
She thinks it’s unlikely Wettlaufer will ever be granted parole.
“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.”