Pennsylvania nurse sentenced to life in prison for insulin deaths

A Pennsylvania nurse who administered lethal or potentially lethal doses of insulin to numerous patients pleaded guilty to three counts of murder and other charges Thursday and was sentenced to life in prison.

Heather Pressdee, 41, received three consecutive life sentences and another consecutive sentence of 380 to 760 years behind bars during a hearing in Butler, about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh. She played a role in the deaths of at least 17 patients living at five health care facilities in four counties between 2020 and 2023, prosecutors said.

The 22 victims in total ranged in age from 43 to 104 years old. Coworkers often questioned Pressdee’s behavior and said she frequently showed disdain for her patients and made derogatory comments about them, authorities said.

Pressdee, who could have faced a death sentence, pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and 19 counts of attempted murder. She was initially charged in May 2023 with killing two nursing home patients and injuring a third. A further investigation led to dozens more charges against her. During a hearing in February in which she argued with her attorney, she indicated that she wanted to plead guilty.

Pressdee said little as he presented his pleas, answering most questions with a single word. When one of his attorneys asked why he was pleading guilty, Pressdee responded: “Because I’m guilty.”

The plea hearing was expected to last until Friday because several people wanted to give victim impact statements, officials said. Some who spoke in court Thursday told Pressdee that she had wrongly tried to play God, noting that although some of her victims were elderly or very sick, none were ready to die.

Pressdee did not look at the speakers or react to their comments, even when one yelled an insult at her that caused the courtroom to erupt in applause, according to news reports.

Another speaker told the court: “She is not sick. She’s not crazy. She is the personification of evil. … “I myself looked into the face of Satan the morning she killed my father.”

Prosecutors alleged that Pressdee, of Harrison, administered excessive amounts of insulin to 22 patients, including some who were not diabetic. He typically administered insulin during night shifts, when staff were short and emergencies did not result in immediate hospitalization. Most patients died shortly after receiving the insulin dose, or some time later.

Her nursing license was suspended early last year, shortly after the initial charges were filed.

According to court documents, Pressdee sent text messages to his mother between April 2022 and May 2023 in which he discussed his unhappiness with various patients and colleagues, and discussed possible harm. She also expressed similar complaints about people she encountered in restaurants and other places.

Pressdee had a history of being “disciplined for abusive behavior toward patients and/or staff at each facility, resulting in her resignation or termination,” prosecutors said in court documents. Beginning in 2018, Pressdee held various jobs at nursing homes and facilities in western Pennsylvania for short periods, according to the documents.

Other health care workers have been convicted of killing patients. Among them is William Davis, a Texas nurse who was convicted of capital murder in 2021 for injecting air into the arteries of four patients after they underwent heart surgery. He was sentenced to death but is appealing his conviction. Another nurse, Charles Cullen, killed at least 29 nursing home patients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but some experts believe he may have killed many more.