A 2006 study found that nurses account for 86% of all murders by healthcare workers.
Psychologists say they do it for a feeling of psychological power, for material gain, because they feel they’re performing a public service by disposing of someone they’ve tagged as “evil,” or simply because they get a thrill out of killing people.
What makes such murders especially frustrating is that they’re so hard to trace; on the body counts below, look at the difference between confirmed victims—which are ones that were determined in a court of law to have been murdered based on evidence—and those the killers are only suspected of slaying. With these 20 murderers alone, there are at least 1,000 victims whose family members will never be sure how or why they died.
1. GENENE JONES: ‘I Didn’t Kill The Babies; The Voices In My Head Did’
Confirmed # of Victims: 1
Suspected # of Victims: 60
A hypersexual (although sexually unappealing) adopted “black sheep” of her family, this Texas pediatric nurse was repeatedly observed in the 1970s and early 1980s doing super-strange things such as using a saline syringe to “squirt” the sign of the cross over herself and the infants in her care, singing to infant corpses while preparing them for the morgue, and even ripping an infant’s cadaver out of its parent’s arms and then running to the morgue with it herself.
Like many such “Angels of Death,” Jones appeared to get a psychological rush out of injecting her prey with something harmful—in her case it was succinylcholine—and then storming in to “rescue” them at the last minute, gaining plaudits and admiration in the process.
Even after being caught as a serial murderer, she evaded responsibility: “I didn’t kill the babies; the voices in my head did.”
2. JANE TOPPAN: Got A Sexual Thrill Out Of Climbing Into Bed With Patients As They Died
Confirmed # of Victims: 31
Referred to as “Jolly Jane” for an allegedly amiable demeanor—at least when she wasn’t murdering people, that is—Toppan was born “Honora Kelley” in 1854 to an abusive and demented father who was rumored to have once sewn his own eyelids shut. Jane once stated that her life’s mission was to have “killed more people—helpless people—than any other man or woman who ever lived.”
Toppan not only used a homemade poison to kill medical patients, though—she also poisoned her foster-sister and more than one of her landlords. After her 1901 arrest, an article in Indiana’s Hoosier State Chronicles claimed that she told investigators that she experienced a sexual thrill from watching patients come close to death, get revived, and then slip back into permanent death. She also said she would climb into bed with patients while they died, fondle them, and stare into their eyes in an attempt to read their souls.
3. ORVILLE LYNN MAJORS: Murdered Patients He Thought Were Demanding Or Whiny
Confirmed # of Victims: 6
Suspected # of Victims: 130
If you’ve ever worked a job in the service industry, you are well aware of how inconsiderate and annoying some clients can be. In a high-stress environment such as a hospital, where people are on the verge of death and aren’t sure they’ll wake up in the morning, it can only multiply the annoyance.
However, not everyone who gets annoyed turns into a murderer.
Operating out of the same Indiana hospital from 1993 and 1995, Majors—who claims to be related to 1970s TV star Lee Majors—allegedly told people that he hated elderly people and that they “should be gassed.” He was convicted of six murders and suspected of up to 130, many of which were accomplished via injections of potassium chloride. Rumors spread that he only attacked patients whom he felt were whiny, demanding, or an unnecessary pain in the ass.
An investigation by Indiana State Police revealed that patients were 42 times more likely to die while Majors was working than when he wasn’t. A presiding judge at his murder case framed his crimes as “diabolical acts” and “a parallel of evil at its most wicked.”
4. NIELS HOGEL: He Was Bored And Wanted To Show Off
Confirmed # of Victims: 85
Suspected # of Victims: 300
Prosecutors alleged that this German serial killer administered different fatally potential drugs to patients because he was bored and wished to show off his skills at the art of resuscitation.
It is estimated that he was successful in two-thirds of the cases.
Hogel was originally convicted and sentenced to life for six murders, then for 85. In 2017 prosecutors said he was responsible for murdering 106 patients; he confessed at trial a year later to 43 of those murderers, claiming with a possibly bored and affected air that he couldn’t remember whether or not he’d killed the rest.
5. DONALD HARVEY: Killed Patients, Roommates, Neighbors, and Lovers
Confirmed # of Victims: 36
Suspected # of Victims: 87
A self-described “Angel of Death,” Harvey claimed that starting at age 18 in 1970, he killed 87 people. Most were hospital patients in the Cincinnati area, but the orderly also claimed to have killed neighbors, roommates, and lovers.
He killed victims by smothering them with pillows; by injecting them with arsenic or cyanide; by turning off their ventilators; and even by introducing fluid in their bloodstream that was tainted with hepatitis and HIV. He eventually pled guilty to 37 murders.
In March 2017, Harvey was found beaten to death in his cell.
6. RICHARD ANGELO: Honor Student Who Wanted To Be Seen As A Hero
Confirmed # of Victims: 4
Suspected # of Victims: 25
This doughy, bearded, bespectacled shlub was a night nurse at the ironically named Good Samaritan Hospital.
It’s ironic precisely because Angelo was yet another killer nurse whose brain flooded with dopamine whenever he would put a patient in harm’s way and then magically show up to “rescue” them—there would be no need for such valiant acts of public goodness if Angelo hadn’t created the fatal dilemma in the first place.
He was arrested late in 1987 when one patient experienced a drastically negative physical reaction after Angelo had slipped an unspecified drug into his IV line and told him, “I’m going to make you feel better.”
It was concluded that Angelo had poisoned 35 patients, ten of whom died, in seven months of working at the hospital. He later claimed that he was motivated by a deep need to be seen as a hero.
7. CHARLES CULLEN: Maybe The Most Prolific Serial Killer In World History
Confirmed # of Victims: 29
Suspected # of Victims: 400
With a lifelong history of mental illness—he attempted to kill himself at age 9 by chugging down some chemicals from his chemistry set—Cullen was a perfect candidate to become a serial killer.
Despite the fact that patients kept dying in mysteriously large numbers wherever he found employment, Cullen was operating during a nursing shortage in the 1980s and 1990s that enabled him to keep getting jobs.
In 2000, near the tail end of his 16-year killing spree, he again attempted suicide by lighting a charcoal grill in his bathtub and hoping to perish from the fumes.
Instead, he was convicted of 29 murders. Investigators suspect him of being responsible for up to 400 slayings, which would make him the most prolific serial killer in world history.
8. KRISTEN GILBERT: She Wanted To Impress Her Boyfriend
Confirmed # of Victims: 4
Suspected # of Victims: 80+
This Massachusetts nurse, whose youth was pockmarked with suicide attempts and violence, was convicted of four murders and two attempted murders via purposely injecting patients with monster doses of the heart stimulant epinephrine.
Federal law dictates that Veterans Administration police officers need to show up during all emergency situations, and it was speculated that Gilbert’s primary motivation for injecting and then reviving patients was so that her boyfriend—a VA officer—would keep showing up and be endlessly impressed with Kristen’s heroism.
When coworkers became suspicious about Gilbert and an investigation was launched, she phoned in a bomb threat to the hospital in an attempt to distract everyone.
Later that year, she checked herself into psychiatric facilities on seven separate occasions.
At her trial, prosecutors said she not only used injections as a weapon—she once attacked someone with a large kitchen knife and also poured scalding water on a mentally handicapped child. She was convicted in 2001 on three counts of first-degree murder.
9. EDSON IZIDORO GUIMARAES: $60 Per Murder?
Confirmed # of Victims: 4
Suspected # of Victims: 131
Operating in Rio de Janeiro in the 1990s, Guimaraes, AKA “The Nurse of Death,” was finally arrested in 1999 after another hospital worker saw him inject a comatose patient with potassium chloride, whereupon the patient immediately died.
He wound up confessing to five murders and was convicted of four, all while claiming that his motives were pure:
I don’t regret what I did. I did it to those in irreversible comas and whose families were suffering….The oxygen mask was taken away, yes. There were five patients that this happened to….I chose the patients I saw suffering, generally patients with AIDS, patients who were almost terminal. I am in peace because the patients were in a coma and had no way of recovering.
However, a less pure possible motive is that at the time, he was awarded $60 every time he informed local funeral homes that a patient had died so that they could contact the surviving relatives and, of course, profit from the death as well.
10. LAINZ ANGELS OF DEATH: Drowned Patients In Their Hospital Beds
Confirmed # of Victims: 48
Suspected # of Victims: 200
This quartet of Austrian nurses confessed to murdering 48 elderly patients throughout the 80s by surrounding them, getting one nurse to pinch the victim’s nose shut, and having another nurse force water down their throat, flooding the patient’s lungs and killing them. This was their primary MO, although they were also known to shoot up patients with overdoses of morphine.
They were finally apprehended after killing an estimated 200 people. After about 20 years in prison, though, all four of them were released for good behavior, which enraged a large chunk of the Austrian public.
11. KIMBERLY CLARK SAENZ: Injected Bleach Into Victims’ Dialysis Lines
Confirmed # of Victims: 5
This worker at a Texas dialysis center was found guilty in 2012 of injuring five patients and murdering five more by purposely injecting bleach into their dialysis lines. At her sentencing, one of the victims’ daughters told her, “You are nothing more than a psychopathic serial killer. I hope you burn in hell.”
12. ELIZABETH WETTLAUFER: Blamed God (Or The Devil)
Confirmed # of Victims: 8
Operating from 2007-2016 in Ontario, Canada, Wettlaufer confessed that she “knew the difference between right and wrong” but was tempted by uncontrollable “surges” compelling her to kill. Regarding one of the eight elderly patients she murdered with lethal insulin doses, she blamed “God or the devil or whatever” for making her do it. She also called that when she heard her own laughter after committing the murder, “it was like a cackling from the pit of hell.”
At her sentencing, the judge said, “She was not an angel of mercy; she was the shadow of death that passed over them on the night shift where she supervised.”
13. ANDERS HANNSON: 15 Years Of Psychiatric Treatment For Killing 15 People
Confirmed # of Victims: 15
Suspected # of Victims: 27
This Swedish nurse’s aide was convicted of 15 of the 27 poisoning deaths that occurred on his watch from October 1978 to January 1979. In August of 1979, he was sentenced to closed psychiatric treatment. He was released in 1994, after having served a little over a month in an asylum for each of his murder victims.
14. SONYA CALEFFI: Injected Air Into Victims’ Bloodstreams
Confirmed # of Victims: 5
Suspected # of Victims: 15-18
Even people who aren’t nurses know that you shouldn’t inject air into someone’s bloodstream—it’s likely to cause a fatal embolism. At least 8 of her estimated 15-18 victims were killed this way; the others were poisoned.
In 2002, Caleffi attempted suicide by driving her car into a wall. She tried killing herself three more times over the next two years—all in the midst of killing her patients.
15. LUDIVINE CHAMBET: ‘The Poisoner Of Chambéry’
Confirmed # of Victims: 10
This unlicensed French nurse’s aide was reported to have crumbled psychologically after her mother died of leukemia. But rather than working out her agony constructively, she poisoned 13 elderly nursing-home patients between 2012 and 2013, killing 10 of them.
While acknowledging that her life had been traumatic, a judge cautioned people not to feel sorry for the killer:
Ludivine Chambet is dangerous, even with her little girlish ways. The horror of the case is indisputable. These are serial murders. However, the psychiatrists believe that the impassive air of Ludivine Chambet did not reveal a murderous nature in this woman, but, to the contrary, the fragility and psychic immaturity of her mind.
16. PETR ZELENKA: Lethal Injections Of Blood Thinners
Confirmed # of Victims: 7
Suspected # of Victims: 21
According to his lawyer, this killer nurse from the Czech Republic had a unique MO: He would inject patients with the blood thinner heparin simply to “test” how aware and proficient the doctors on call would prove to be.
Well, in at least seven cases, doctors were fatally “inefficient.”
Zelenka was convicted of murdering seven people and attempting to kill 10 others during a spree lasting from May to Septmber 2006. He is currently serving a life sentence.
17. CHRISTINE MALEVRE: The Public Saw Her As An Angel Of Mercy
Confirmed # of Victims: 6
Suspected # of Victims: 30
Although this French nurse claimed that she was only an Angel of Mercy who killed terminally ill patients who’d begged her to put them out of their misery, many of her victims’ families claimed this was a lie.
Still, after her 1998 apprehension, many members of the French public believed her alibi, and she reportedly received over 5,000 letters of support.
But seeing as how this is France and not, say, Texas, she was only sentenced to 12 years in prison for killing six people.
18. AMY ARCHER-GILLIGAN: Proprietor Of The ‘Murder Factory’
Confirmed # of Victims: 1
Suspected # of Victims: 48+
As the proprietress of Sister Amy’s Nursing Home for the Elderly in Connecticut, Ms. Archer-Gilligan aroused suspicions when it turned out that not only did 48 residents die at the home between 1911 and 1916, but many of them had coincidentally willed her large sums of money shortly before dying.
Exhumations concluded that at least three of her boarders, as well as her ex-husband, had died from arsenic poisoning. When several witnesses testified that Archer-Gilligan often sent them to purchase more arsenic “to kill the rats,” the picture became clearer: She was running a “Murder Factory” for profit.
She was found not guilty by reason of insanity and finally died in 1962 while confined in a mental hospital.
19. MARIE FICACKOVA: Suffered Irrational Hatred Of Children During Menstruation, Violently Murdered Them
Confirmed # of Victims: 2
Suspected # of Victims: 10+
Despite the relatively low body count, Fikáčková is easily one of the nastiest specimens on this list merely for the fact that she violently murdered infants with her own hands. Operating in Czechoslovakia from 1957 to 1960, she ultimately confessed to the murders on February 23, 1960 of female infants, one aged five weeks and the other a mere 20 hours old. She says she cracked both of their skulls and broke one of their hands. She confessed to attacking at least 10 other infants but claim they all survived. She tried explaining that she suffered from paedophobia—an irrational hatred of children—which was exacerbated while she was menstruating. In such cases, the mere sound of a child crying was enough to send her into a murderous rage. She was executed by hanging in 1961.
20. FELICITAS SANCHEZ AGUILLON: ‘The Human Crusher Of Little Angels’
Confirmed # of Victims: 1
Suspected # of Victims: 50+
Variously known as “The Ogress of Colonia Roma,” “The Female Ripper of Colonia Roma,” and “The Human Crusher of Little Angels,” the Mexican-born Aguillón made a habit of poisoning dogs while she was still a child. As an adult, she operated as a baby farmer, midwife, and nurse from 1930 to 1941. She killed an estimated 50 babies by poisoning or strangulation, dismembering their corpses and either incinerating them or tossing their remains in a local sewer. She committed suicide by purposely overdosing on medication.