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Kristen Strickland: The Killer Nurse
Kristen Heather Strickland was born November 13, 1967 in Fall River, Massachusetts. The older of two daughters, she was described as a bright, attractive child who grew up in a well adjusted home. She appeared to be a normal child, at least until she reached her teens.
As she matured she developed into an intelligent, smart young lady and took on an air of sophistication which her friends admired. However, she had several major character flaws. She was a thief who stole articles of clothing from friends and when caught red handed would vehemently deny the accusations.
She was also a compulsive liar who told her friends she was related to Lizzie Borden, the infamous axe murderess, and her mother was an alcoholic who continually abused her. Why she felt a need to conjure up such tales has never been determined. Some researchers theorize it was a deep seated craving for attention. For example, she would sometimes fake suicide to be noticed.
One other facet of Kristen’s character was she had a violent temper, especially when it came to boyfriends. Former boyfriends told of how she would damage their cars or physically attack them. It was these traits that set the stage for future events which would earn her the title “The Angel of Death.”
In 1988, Kristen graduated as a registered nurse from Greenfield Community College, MA. Shortly after, she met a young man at Hampton Beach, N.H. named Glenn Gilbert, who she married. With her brand spanking new nursing degree she accepted a job at the Veterans Administration medical center in Northampton, MA in March of 1989. The Gilbert’s bought a home and began their new life.
Fellow employees described Kristen as competent and committed to her job. Her superiors rated her as "highly skilled” and commended her on her expertise during medical emergencies. However, her coworkers would later reevaluate their opinions.
After having her first child in late 1990 she returned to work and immediately changed her schedule to the midnight shift which wasn’t very popular with most of the nursing staff. No one questioned her decision to do so at the time as it fit into her image as the faithful, dedicated nurse she portrayed.
However, almost immediately patients began to die on her shift, triple the rate of the previous three years. But Kristen's competent nursing skills kept any suspicions of involvement in their deaths at bay. It was also about this time the Gilbert’s had a second child and marital problems arose.
Kristen began an affair with James G. Perrault, a Hospital security guard who worked part of her shift. The two often went for drinks with other workers at the end of their shifts. It was part of Perrault’s responsibility to be present at any medical emergency on Kristen’s ward. During such emergencies Kristen would show off her nursing skills in front of her lover. She also took the opportunity to flirt with him, which was noted by other workers on the ward.
In the fall of 1994, her husband noticed his meals began having an odd taste and he became convinced she was trying to poison him. He told his friends he thought his wife wanted him dead by Thanksgiving, although it was never proven. It was then Perrault pressed Kristen to leave her husband. She did.
Meanwhile at the VA Hospital patients were still dropping like flies and Kristen's coworkers began noticing most of the deaths always occurred on Kristen's shift. Although many who died were old with heart complications and other serious problems, many in relatively good health were also dying of cardiac arrest. But still, no one ventured to voice their suspicions. Perhaps because for some it seemed too fantastic to believe a nurse would intentionally kill her patients.
But not all of the nurses thought it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility and began to monitor drugs which could cause cardiac arrest. They discovered one such drug, epinephrine, was being stolen. Only several nurses on the staff were allowed access to it. Kristen was one. From that point on these nurses came under close scrutiny.
It wasn’t long before Kristen showed her hand. She gave a nurse suffering from asthma a vial of epinephrine. There was little doubt left as to who was stealing the drug. Although this pointed the finger of guilt squarely at Kristen, one other incident raised suspicions even further.
In February of 1996 Kristen wanted to knock off early, no doubt to meet with Perrault. She asked her supervisor a peculiar question. The question was, if her patient in Intensive Care died, could she leave work early. Although the supervisor thought it an odd question she answered yes. Within hours the patient died of a heart attack.
A few weeks later an AIDS patient suddenly passed out after Kristen had flushed his intravenous lines. Nurses on the ward finally decided to report their suspicions. Federal investigators quickly determined the common denominator to many of the deaths was Kristen Gilbert. During the seven years Kristen had been working at the VA Hospital over 350 deaths had occurred during her shift. There was no way such a number of deaths could be attributed to mere coincidence.
The question was why? Amazingly, it was determined she committed the acts simply so her lover would be summoned. When he arrived she would try to impress him with her nursing skills. It also gave her a chance to be close and flirt with him.
During the investigation Kristen had been suspended from work. Perrault, sensing he had made a huge mistake by getting involved with Kristen, decided to end the affair in June of 1996. Shortly after Kristen tried to commit suicide by overdosing on drugs and was admitted to a hospital psychiatric ward. While in the hospital, she phoned Perrault and confessed she had killed patients. Perrault notified the authorities.
After a lengthy trial in 2001, a jury found her guilty of first-degree murder in three deaths, second-degree murder in one more and the attempted murder of two others. She was sentenced to life in prison.