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A “rogue nurse” in North Carolina has been accused of murdering two patients by injecting a fatal dose of insulin and attempting to kill a third patient, prosecutors say.
Johnathan Howard Hayes, 47, is now facing two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder for administering “lethal” and “near fatal” doses while working as a nurse at the Atrium Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, according to a press conference streamed by CBS affiliate station WFMY.
“All the available evidence indicates that this man acted alone,” said Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill, who described Hayes as a “rogue nurse.”
Hayes — a veteran nurse who had worked at the hospital over various periods in the last 15 years — was described last year by his wife Misty Hayes as going “that extra mile” with his patients during his shifts, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
Misty had nominated her husband for a nurse of distinction as part of a Celebrating Nurses of the Triad special section put together by the paper and other media outlets.
But authorities now say Hayes is accused of administering deadly doses of insulin to vulnerable patients who had sought care at the well-established medical center.
According to O’Neill, Hayes is accused of administering a near fatal dose to patient Pamela Little on Dec. 21, 2001.
Little survived, but authorities say just weeks later, on Jan. 5, 2022, Hayes tried to kill again, this time administering a fatal dose to Gwen Zelda Crawford. Crawford died three days later on Jan. 8, O’Neill said.
That same month, O’Neill said, Hayes also administered a fatal dose of insulin to Vickie Lynne Lingerfelt on Jan. 22. She died five days later on Jan. 27.
All three women were in theirs 60s, according to the local newspaper.
O’Neill declined to discuss what the women were seeking treatment for, citing privacy laws, or comment on what unit Hayes had worked on during his time at the hospital, but did say that it didn’t appear that he had any prior relationship with the women.
“As far as we can tell the nurse did not know the patient beforehand,” he said, adding that the motive is unknown at this time.
O’Neill said an investigation was launched into Hayes’ activities in March, after the medical center reached out to authorities with concerns that a nurse may have administered a lethal dose of insulin.
After a “thorough” investigation by the Winston-Salem Police — who spoke to witnesses, gathered evidence and spoke to the victim’s family members— O’Neill said his office was confident there was “probable cause” to make the arrest.
After announcing the allegations against Hayes, O’Neill thanked the medical center for coming forward.
“Without your help and your cooperation, we would not be here today,” he said. “You are helping us to pursue justice on behalf of the victims and their families.”
He also encouraged the public not to avoid seeking medical attention as a result of the allegations.
“The acts of this one bad actor should not be a reflection on the medical professionals that provide excellent care to this community,” he said. “Doctors and nurses are one of the few blessings that we have when either ourselves or our loved ones are sick or hurt.”
Denise Potter, a spokesperson from Atrium Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, also expressed her condolences to the friends and family of the victims at the press conference.
“We are deeply saddened by what has occurred,” she said. “When we first learned of these disturbing events, we immediately reached out to offer our condolences, our apologies and our support to the patients’ families.”
She said the hospital alerted authorities as soon as they noticed a “deviation in patient care as part of our established safety protocols” and said the facility remains committed to helping police and prosecutors as the investigation continues.
Hayes was terminated from the medical center in March.
“What is alleged to have taken place certainly does not represent the very high standards of safety and integrity that our dedicated teammates take pride in and display each and every day,” Potter said.
Hayes isn’t the first nurse to be accused of doing harm to his patients.
Investigators later found a series of disturbing post-it notes in her home, seemingly claiming responsibility for the deaths.
“I am a horrible evil person,” one note allegedly read. “I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough.”
Charles Cullen also earned the ominous nickname “The Angel of Death” after he confessed to killing more than 40 patients. Cullen — whose story has previously been featured on Oxygen’s “Snapped Notorious: Prescription For Death” — claimed that he killed the patients as an act of mercy and wanted to end their pain and suffering.
He pleaded guilty in 2006 to killing 22 patients.
Cullen’s shocking crimes are the subject of the upcoming movie “The Good Nurse,” starring Eddie Redmayne, slated to debut on Netflix Oct. 26. Jessica Chastain plays nurse Amy Loughren, Cullen's former coworker and an informant for the Somerset detectives.
Cullen is currently serving 11 consecutive life terms at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton.
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