As former Woodstock, Ont., nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer appeared in a local courtroom Thursday to plead guilty to murdering eight seniors, a detailed, two-hour-long confession to police in which she talked about her life, her career and how she killed her victims was shown in court.
In total, Wettlaufer pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault. It came months after it was revealed that Wettlaufer, who worked in multiple southwestern Ontario long-term care facilities, used insulin to kill residents in her care over several years.
Family and friends of the victims and members of the media watched the full police interview with Wettlaufer, which lasted for two hours and nine minutes. It took place on Oct. 5, after she was discharged from CAMH in Toronto where she was seeking mental health treatment.
Toronto police received information that Wettlaufer divulged. She was taken to 52 Division in downtown Toronto before Woodstock police picked her up and returned her to the city. A handwritten confession was turned over to police, a document she said her doctor encouraged her to write as a part of therapy.
In a written transcript of the interview she did with the Woodstock Police Service, Wettlaufer told Det. Const. Nathan Hergott how her marriage fell apart in 2007 and how she met a woman online.
She said she then applied for a job at Caressant Care, the facility where seven seniors were eventually killed. Wettlaufer said she struggled with drugs and alcohol and that she tried to obtain help a number of times.
As the interview went on, Hergott questioned Wettlaufer about her handwritten confession and they talked about each victim one by one.
“(James Silcox) was the first one that died as a result of what I did,” Wettlaufer said, describing how Silcox died in September 2007. She noted that Silcox wasn’t diabetic, but that he did have dementia.
She said she gave Silcox two doses of insulin. She also said she didn’t work with Silcox all the time and she said he allegedly fondled her.
“Throughout the night he was yelling out, ‘I love you and I’m sorry’ … at 3:30 the PSWs came to me and said that he was gone.”
Wettlaufer said she called a doctor and that they ruled the cause of death as an embolism due to a recent hip surgery. She said she felt “awful” afterward and “maybe” fought with her girlfriend and played computer games while trying “to forget about it.”
“You thought that this was a purpose that you were given on your relationship or after breaking up with your husband, right?” Hergott asked, to which Wettlaufer replied, “yes.”
Wettlaufer said that she was working with Maurice “Moe” Granat one afternoon in 2007 when, according to her, he fondled her.
“Again, I got that feeling inside that this is his time to go … so I gave him an overdose of insulin after supper … and, uh, I believe he died the next day,” she said, adding after that he “started going downhill after the insulin overdose” and that he was moved to a palliative care room.
“I always wondered if they’d find the site where I gave the shot and … there’d be an investigation. I always wondered that.”
Over the course of the next few years, Wettlaufer said there were some “attempts.” But it wasn’t until 2011 that more deaths happened.
Wettlaufer said she focused on 95-year-old Helen Matheson.
“She was very quiet, very determined, um, just seemed to be waiting to die … I had that feeling that you know this is the one.”
She said she made a fuss over Matheson and bought her blueberry pie and ice cream.
“Then that night I overdosed her … I had that feeling that it was her time to go,” Wettlaufer said, adding that she experienced a “laughter” while injecting insulin and after someone died.
Days later, Wettlaufer said Mary Zurawinski, another Caressant Care resident who had dementia, told her she (Zerwinski) was going to die “tonight” and asked to be put into a deathbed.
“I had a feeling inside of me she must be the next one… because she was saying she was going to die, but there’s no signs she was going to die so I gave her an overdose of insulin… she became palliative and she died I think within a couple of days.”
Wettlaufer said this may have been the first person to whom she administered long- and short-acting insulin together.
“I figured it would be much stronger than just the short-acting,” she said, adding she told Zerwinski the shots were for pain.
At this point in Wettlaufer’s life, she said she was abusing prescription drugs and alcohol “a little bit” and that she was trying to “get close to God.”
Hergott asked if Wettlaufer thought her victims suffered.
“All the people you’ve talked about so far died peacefully in my opinion … and I am sorry. I’m sorry for what the families went through at the time,” she said.
“I should’ve gotten help sooner. I took something from you that was precious and taken too soon. I honestly believed at the time that God wanted me to do it, but I know now that’s not true.”
Wettlaufer also said she spoke with a lawyer “long ago” about the deaths and that she said she was told to “take it to my grave and not tell anybody.” She said they also told her to get help.
Wettlaufer goes on to describe Gladys Millard, a resident she said was diabetic and had dementia. She described Millard as having “quite the spirit” and being mobile when she first started caring for her, but Wettlaufer said her health declined quickly.
“As always, one evening I just got that red surging feeling that she was going to be the one … and gave her an insulin overdose,” she said, adding later that Millard struggled as Wettlaufer tried to inject her before she found a spot on her body where “she couldn’t reach me and pinch me.”
“It would usually start happening, you know, focused on one patient and then this – I would feel that red surge and which is what made me think it was God.”
Millard died the next afternoon, Wettlaufer said. She said during her subsequent days off she wondered if Millard died and whether she might be caught.
“Every time I walked in after somebody passed away, I always wondered if this is the day I’m going to get caught,” Wettlaufer told Hergott, adding she thought she would lose her nursing licence, be fired or sent to prison.
Between 2011 and 2013, there was a two-year gap in which there were no attempts to perform an insulin overdose. She said she felt guilty, “damned,” “confused,” and that she “just couldn’t do it anymore” after returning from a cruise in the Caribbean in November 2011.
“I was feeling like if I could somehow connect with God strongly enough that I wouldn’t do it anymore,” Wettlaufer said, adding her read her bible and went to church to resist “the odd urge.”
In 2013, Wettlaufer said she was working with Helen Young, a resident who was diabetic and had dementia. She said Young was “very difficult to deal with” and that nurses often tried to help Young.
“’I want to die, why can’t you help me die? I want to die,’” Wettlaufer said Young told nurses.
“It was like something snapped inside … and that red surge came back and I thought, ‘OK, you will die.’” Wettlaufer said.
She told Hergott she gave Young insulin which caused her to have a seizure and said Young died one or two days later.
The next year, she said she was working with Maureen Pickering, who she called “a handful,” when she experienced another “surge.”
“She just got harder and harder to look after and one night when I had to look after her … I started to get the feeling, that surge, again,” Wettlaufer said.
“I thought, ‘No, I don’t want her die but if I could somehow give her enough of a dose to give her a coma… or something to change her brainwaves.”
She said Pickering was taken to hospital after having a serious stroke. Pickering died a few days later at the long-term care home’s palliative care room.
While Pickering was being treated, Wettlaufer said she was fired from Caressant Care for unrelated medication errors. Pickering died a few days after Wettlaufer was dismissed.
During her interview, Wettlaufer said she admitted she was fired for medication errors and that the hiring representative told her she “believe(d) in second chances” and hired Wettlaufer on a one-year contract working afternoons.
It was at Meadow Park that she cared for her last murder victim, Arpad Horvath, a resident who she said had dementia and described as “mean” and someone who would “grab the nurses.”
“One night I just got that surge and I thought that, ‘You need to go,” Wettlaufer said, adding he was his “normal self” the night she injected him with insulin.
“He fought the first needle … and then the second needle I got in.”
Horvath later had a stroke and died days later. Wettlaufer said his family was “absolutely devastated” after his death and that in speaking with them she said she felt like she “betrayed them.”
After Horvath died in 2014, Wettlaufer said she went on a holiday and “that’s when I really decided that this had to stop.”
Wettlaufer and Hergott went on to discuss others listed in the handwritten confession who didn’t die from insulin injections. They lived at Caressant Care and Telfer Place in Paris, Ont. (She said she was sent to the facility through a nursing agency called Life Guard). She also tended to patients while working at Saint Elizabeth Home Health Care.
Throughout the interview, Wettlaufer described telling people what she had done.
She said the first person she told was a girlfriend at the time. Wettlaufer said she “killed a couple and she told me not to do it again or she was going to turn me into the police.”
After Helen Young’s death, she said she felt angry at herself and turned to her pastor.
“I felt like I had failed myself. I felt like God had failed me … I was getting very confused, so it was soon after that that I went to the pastor and told him what happened,” she said.
“He prayed over me and because he said that was the last thing he would’ve thought out of me… and his wife there too and they prayed over me … they said to me now this is God’s grace, ‘but if you ever do this again we will have to turn you into the police.’”
Wettlaufer said she was at their house when she told the pastor that “I was taking people’s lives by giving them overdoses.” She said she didn’t give him specific victims’ names and couldn’t remember if she told him how many people were involved.
She said she told around half a dozen other friends, in addition to writing journals in pads and posting on websites, and while she was in CAMH, Wettlaufer said she told “someone who I thought was a friend … who turned around and called the police to make sure that it had really been dealt with.”
Hergott then asked Wettlaufer why no one else contacted police.
“Maybe they didn’t believe me,” she said.
As the interview ended, Wettlaufer told Hergott that she wanted to go home, “have a good night sleep,” spend Thanksgiving weekend with her family and keep attending Alcoholics Anonymous group meetings.
She also said she wanted to tell her parents, with whom she said she had a “very, very close” relationship, about what happened.
“They’re going to be devastated.”
Before being released on a peace bond, Hergott said this type of investigation is something the police service has “never dealt with.”
“You’ve done some… some things to some innocent people,” Hergott said.
“Absolutely,” Wettlaufer said.
“People are going to have opinions of you,” he said.
“Monster,” she replied.