News / Canada

'Not up to her to be God!' Friends, families react to new charges against ex-nurse

Elizabeth Wettlaufer was charged in October with eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of residents at nursing homes in Woodstock and London, Ont.

Elizabeth Wettlaufer is escorted into the courthouse in Woodstock, Ontario on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017. Ontario Provincial Police laid six more charges against 49-year-old Wettlaufer, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley

Elizabeth Wettlaufer is escorted into the courthouse in Woodstock, Ontario on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017. Ontario Provincial Police laid six more charges against 49-year-old Wettlaufer, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley

WOODSTOCK, Ont. — A former Ontario nurse accused of killing eight seniors in her care shuffled into a courtroom Friday to face six more charges, as friends and family members of the alleged victims sat quietly — some stifling tears.

Wearing a green prison sweatshirt and pants, Elizabeth Wettlaufer made her way to the prisoner's box — the only sound in the courtroom coming from the shackles clamped around her ankles.

The 49-year-old from Woodstock, Ont., faces a total of 14 charges, including eight counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault. Court documents allege Wettlaufer injected the six new alleged victims with insulin.

Police allege the crimes took place over the last decade in three Ontario long-term care facilities, where Wettlaufer worked as a registered nurse, and a private home.

Investigators said four of the six alleged victims related to the new charges have died, but their deaths were not "attributed" to Wettlaufer.

A woman whose father was among the alleged victims said she came to the courtroom to see Wettlaufer in person.

"She needs help," said a teary Susan Horvath, whose father, Arpad Horvath, died in 2014. "She's lost in this world and she made a lot of families in pain for the rest of their lives."

Donald Martin, whose friend Maurice Granat is among the alleged victims, was struggling to keep his emotions in check.

"It's not up to her to be God," he said. "It's not up to her to decide that that man was to die."

Police did not provide details on the alleged incidents, but said the investigation was ongoing.

"We'll just follow the evidence and take it to where it leads us," said Sgt. David Rektor of the Ontario Provincial Police. He encouraged anyone who might have information on the case to contact police.

Outside court, relatives of the alleged victims explained why they had attended the hearing.

"We want her to see how much hurt and how much pain we have for our loved ones and how much pain she's created," said Andrea Silcox, whose 84-year-old father, James Silcox, died in August 2007.

"She needs to see the pain in the faces that still exist, the loved ones that she had left behind."

The new charges against Wettlaufer include the attempted murders of Wayne Hedges, 57, between September and December 2008, Michael Priddle, 63, between January 2008 and December 2009 — both residents of the Caressant Care nursing home — Sandra Towler, 77, a resident of Telfer Place in Brant County, Ont., in September 2015, and 68-year-old Beverly Bertram, who was at a private home in Oxford County, Ont., in August of last year. 

Revera Inc., which owns Telfer Place, said they were shocked at the allegations, but that the alleged victim is still a resident in their care and is doing well.

Wettlaufer also faces two counts of aggravated assault against 87-year-old Clotilde Adriano and 90-year-old Albina Demedeiros — both Caressant Care residents — between June and December of 2007.

Caressant Care said they are co-operating with the police investigation.

Police launched an investigation in late September after becoming aware of information Wettlaufer had given to a psychiatric hospital in Toronto that caused them concern, a police source has told The Canadian Press.

In October, Wettlaufer was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of residents at nursing homes in Woodstock and London, Ont. Police alleged Wettlaufer used drugs to kill the seniors while she worked at the facilities between 2007 and 2014.

The allegations against Wettlaufer have not been proven in court. 

A few weeks before she was arrested, Wettlaufer entered into a peace bond as police feared she would "commit a serious personal injury."

Among several restrictions placed on her by a court, Wettlaufer was ordered not to possess insulin and was not allowed to work as a caregiver.

Wettlaufer was also not allowed to possess or consume alcohol and had to obey a curfew and reside in either her apartment or with her parents in Woodstock between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m., except to attend alcoholics anonymous meetings, according to terms laid out in the peace bond.

The peace bond also required Wettlaufer to "continue any treatment for mental health."

Records from the College of Nurses of Ontario show Wettlaufer was first registered as a nurse in August 1995 but resigned Sept. 30, 2016, and is no longer a registered nurse.

The next court hearing in the case is set for Feb. 15.

— With files from Diana Mehta in Toronto