A nurse is accused of murdering two patients and trying to kill another with insulin. Johnathan Howard Hayes, 47, was arrested Tuesday, records show.
District Attorney Jim O’Neill of Forsyth County, North Carolina, called the defendant a “rogue nurse.” He told reporters in a press conference that Hayes was a nurse at Atrium Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. They learned from an investigative team from the medical center that the defendant may have administered a lethal dose to a patient, killing the victim and perhaps others. Investigators ultimately determined that Hayes either killed or almost killed three patients.
He allegedly administered a near-fatal dose of insulin to Pamela Little on Dec. 21, 2021. According to O’Neill, she survived, but Hayes later administered a lethal dose to Gwen Zelda Crawford, 60, on Jan. 5, 2022. Crawford died on Jan. 8. Then, on Jan. 22, Hayes allegedly administered a lethal dose to Vickie Lynne Lingerfelt, 61. Lingerfelt died on Jan. 27, the prosecutor said.
O’Neill emphasized that evidence showed Hayes acted alone. He credited the hospital with finding out about the incidents and bringing this to law enforcement attention. Hayes was fired. The “checks and balances” at the hospital were “right on the money,” O’Neill said. Hospital investigators contacted the DA’s office in March, he said. O’Neill said that the charging decision was made after he and detectives spoke to the medical examiner.
The prosecutor maintained that no one in the community should hesitate to seek treatment from the hospital or other healthcare facilities in the county.
“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.
“We are deeply saddened by what has occurred,” said Denise Potter, spokesperson from Atrium Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Asked if this could have possibly been a case of medical malpractice, O’Neill emphasized that the charges were first-degree murder, not involuntary manslaughter. He withheld certain details of the case. For example, he declined to say what floor Hayes was assigned to. He cited HIPAA in declining to say what Little, Crawford, and Lingerfelt were treated for.
As far as investigators knew, Hayes did not know the patients beforehand, he said. Authorities do not know the motive, he said.
North Carolina is a capital punishment state, but prosecutors still have to decide if they will seek the death penalty.
“All options are on the table for punishment,” said O’Neill. They will wait for all reports to be submitted, and to meet the patients’ families before making a decision on what is a just punishment.
Assistant Chief William Penn of the Winston-Salem Police Department announced a phone line for anyone who believed that they or a family member was a victim in the case. The number is (336) 757-0357.
O’Neill said that because this is an ongoing investigation, he asked police and the hospital not to speak further about the case in public.
[Booking photo via Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office]
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