Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer, a 49-year-old registered nurse from Woodstock, is facing eight first-degree murder charges in connection to the deaths of eight elderly people at nursing homes across southwestern Ontario.
Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) said a drug was administered to patients at two nursing homes in Woodstock and London, Ont. between 2007 and 2014.
“There are obviously a number of drugs that are stored and available in long-term care facilities. Subsequent to our investigation, part of the evidence for this particular matter, all I’m able to say at this time was that a drug was administered,” OPP Det. Supt. Dave Truax said during a press conference Tuesday morning.
A statement released on Monday by Caressant Care said the criminal probe targeted “the actions of a former staff member, a registered nurse” who left the facility two-and-a-half years ago.
VIDEO: Nurse charged with 1st-degree murder in deaths of 8 patients at Ontario nursing homes
“We remain in regular contact with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care,” Caressant Care spokesperson Lee Griffi said. “Our highest priority is to continue to provide for the physical, social and spiritual needs of our residents, and that remains our focus. We deeply regret the additional grief and stress this is imposing on the families involved.”
Caressant Care is a privately run organization comprising 15 nursing homes across Ontario with just over 1,200 residents under its care.
Wettlaufer was arrested Monday and charged with eight counts of first-degree murder. She appeared in court Tuesday morning and was remanded into custody.
Derek Gilbert, a neighbour of Wettlaufer’s who lives in the same apartment complex, told Global News she had recently given away her pets and had struggled with substance abuse in the past.
“Just recently she gave away her dog and I believe her cats as well, so I think she knew something was coming,” he said, adding Wettlaufer had one dog, Nashville, and two or three cats.
“Basically out of the blue, within the last month or so she said she wasn’t able to take care of them.”
Woodstock Police Chief William Renton said police were “confident at this time that all of the victims have been identified and families have been notified.”
The names of the victims, ages, and the dates of their deaths are as follows:
LISTEN: Craig Needles from AM980 speaks with Susan, whose father, Arpad Horvath, was a victim in the ongoing investigation into multiple murders at nursing homes in London and Woodstock.
Police said the investigation began in Woodstock on Sept. 29, and then expanded to London, Oxford and Brant counties.
OPP announced on Oct. 14 that a suspect had been identified and there was no further risk to public safety.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne called the nursing home deaths “extremely distressing” in the provincial legislature on Tuesday.
VIDEO: OPP detective outlines timeline of multi-jurisdictional investigation into nursing home murders
A New Democrat who represents the London area asked the premier in question period how this went undetected for 10 years without the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care noticing.
Wynne said it would be inappropriate for her to comment on an ongoing police investigation, but she said it is an “extremely distressing and tragic, tragic thing for all of the families involved.”
VIDEO: Police say registered nurse administered a drug to kill eight elderly people at Ontario nursing homes
An arrest in the nursing home deaths come a day after an appeal by Michael Rafferty was dismissed in Ontario Superior Court in relation to Victoria Stafford murder conviction.
He was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 with no chance of parole for 25 years for kidnapping, sexual assault causing bodily harm and first-degree murder in the 2009 death of the eight-year-old Woodstock girl.
Chief Wenton said the community has faced a number of horrific crimes in the past but that the people have remained resilient.
VIDEO: Woodstock, Ont. dealing with another tragedy after nursing home deaths
“It’s very difficult for a community to have to endure these types of tragic incidents,” he said.
“But the community is strong and the community will rally and will work together to get through it again just as we have in the other incidents.”
In 2006, police investigated the mass murder of eight members of the Toronto Bandidos motorcycle gang who were found dead at a farmhouse near London, Ont. Six men were convicted in connection with the deaths.
VIDEO: Eight victims, suspect identified as part of multi-jurisdictional death investigation at Ontario nursing homes
With files from The Canadian Press
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