It was an emotional day in court for family and friends of the victims of Elizabeth Wettlaufer, the former Ontario nurse who pleaded guilty Thursday to the first-degree murders of eight seniors.
Dan Silcox, the son of Wettlaufer’s first alleged victim, 84-year-old Second World War veteran James Silcox who was killed in August 2007, said sitting through her guilty plea in court was not easy.
WATCH: Ex-nurse pleads guilty to 8 counts of first-degree murder. Mike Drolet reports.
“It was tough. My dad was a great guy and to hear anything negative about him it rips your heart out frankly,” he told Global News through tears outside the Woodstock courthouse Thursday.
“I know that he could have been a bit of a tough nut in that home but most seniors are. It seems that most of these people are very stressed and they’re desperate for happiness and they’ve lost their happiness, they’ve lost their family, they’ve lost everything and they’re just waiting to die and it’s very sad.”
Silcox said he understood how his father was killed, but went to court Thursday hoping to find out why.
“It’s starting to become clear to me now,” he said. “There was a strange force coming from within her and she just started playing God.”
Wettlaufer said she got a “red surging feeling” that made her want to kill and that God had told her “this is the one,” a Crown lawyer told the court.
“I don’t understand the red surge. I just don’t understand it,” Silcox said. “How anybody could just have an urge to kill somebody with no rational reason.”
“I don’t think a normal person could understand it,” added James Silcox’s granddaughter Natalie Silcox.
“How could you kill somebody and then have their loved ones come in and face them?”
Silcox said his father could be difficult at times and “lash out” but cannot comprehend how someone could take his life.
“A large contributing factor to the whole thing is that she is so messed up as a person from her personal life, professional life,” he said. “She had substance problems and so on and all that culminated to this ‘red surge’ — I just don’t understand it.”
James Silcox’s last words were reportedly “I’m sorry, I love you,” something that his family will never forget.
“That was my dad, he was a very loving man,” Dan said, adding he doesn’t know who his father was referring to.
“The whole thing is very tough. The fact that my father died before he should have died, it was not God that took him. It was somebody else.”
Silcox said his family relived James Silcox’s death “all over again” after news of the story broke across the country, which has been “heartbreaking” for the family.
“We just want closure. We want to see the victim impact statements, we want to see the sentencing and then we never want to see her again,” he said.
“I just hope that she fades away and the whole memory can diminish.”
Susan Horvath, daughter of 75-year-old Arpad Horvath who was killed in August 2014, said hearing the details of her father’s killing were devastating.
“It tore me apart. It tore me apart to hear how she killed my dad,” she said. “I’m telling you it’s something I wouldn’t want on your worst enemy.”
Horvath said she’s prepared for the verdict, but doesn’t know yet if she will accept it.
“Everybody is asking me if I could forgive her. No never. I can’t forgive somebody like that,” she said.
“She’s a monster.”
Horvath said she believed Wettlaufer intended to get caught and planned everything “step by step.”
“She wasn’t on drugs or anything when she was doing this. She knew what she was doing she just planned it,” she said.
“She wanted to get caught, she got caught. I mean if anybody wants to destroy their life this is how you do it.”
Horvath said her father lived a sheltered life and wouldn’t express emotions openly, whereas she said she has spent the last six months “always crying.”
“I’m traumatized,” she said. “I heard my dad was kicking and fighting and even when she injected him he still, he still was OK so she had to do another one just to kill him.”
Horvath said she blames the nursing homes for the deaths and hopes Ontario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins will put forth new measures to prevent such deaths from ever happening again.
“Psychological evaluation is very important for these nurses,” she said. “I’m hoping that with these deaths there can be a change — that’s all I’m asking.”
“I can tell you one thing my mom is not going into a nursing home. We’ve already made arrangements. She’s not stepping in to one. That’s for sure I guarantee you.”
Horvath said the only redeeming factor was that Wettlaufer made the decision to plead guilty.
“I thank her for doing that,” she said. “I think everybody thanks her for doing that. We’re all in a lot of pain and I don’t think we can handle much more.”
Laura Jackson, a family friend of 84-year-old Maurice “Moe” Granat who was killed in December 2007, said hearing Wettlaufer’s guilty plea was “sad and overwhelming.”
“We’ve been hearing rumours about what happened and it turns out that most of the rumours we’ve heard have been true,” she said outside court Thursday.
“What we are to understand from the facts that are bought in at this point, is that she picked her victims because she was having a bad day.”
Jackson said it was “frightening” to imagine the system could allow this to happen, given that families put their loved ones into the care of nursing homes every day.
Jackson said the loved ones of the victims were glad they were spared a lengthy trial process, but it was still “brutal” to hear the details of their last moments.
She added Granat was as close as “family could be without blood.”
“I think heartbreaking is the best word to use to describe it. I thought I was able to handle the hearing and I couldn’t — it overwhelmed me,” she said.
“There’s a lot of tears, a lot of shock.”
Jackson described Granat as “100 per cent a gentleman,” an “old school wonderful man” who would give you the shirt off his back, the last nickel in his pocket and put you up if you had nowhere to sleep.
“If he had one slice of bread and you were hungry, you got half,” she said. “And that was Moe, and to know that she callously and deliberately took his life, I just — I cant. I’m having a hard time processing that.”
Jackson said Wettlaufer appeared to show no remorse, adding that the last time the accused appeared in court in front of family and friends she “literally stared us down.”
“She looked at us like we were nothing and she was smiling and waving at people today when she left the court room so yeah there’s no remorse there not as far as I’m concerned,” she said.
“What she did was cold and calculated and she did it with forethought and foreknowledge because the type of drugs she used, she knew that even if there was an autopsy, the likelihood of them finding an insulin overdose is unless they’re absolutely looking for it is almost nil.”
She said Wettlaufer “wanted the fame” from the killings, something she said “gives her power.”
“So that’s why we’re here standing to say Moe’s name and Arpad Horvath’s name and the other victims,” she said.
“Keep their names in the news because they’re the ones that matter — she really doesn’t matter.”
With files from Alana MacLeod