Pennsylvania nurse who gave patients lethal or possibly lethal insulin doses gets life in prison

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, was given three consecutive life sentences and another consecutive term of 380-760 years behind bars during a hearing in Butler, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Pittsburgh. She played a role in the deaths of at least 17 patients who lived in five health facilities in four counties between 2020 and 2023, prosecutors said.

The 22 overall victims ranged in age from 43 to 104. Coworkers often questioned Pressdee’s conduct 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. Further investigation led to dozens of more charges against her. During a February hearing in which she argued with her attorneys, she indicated that she wanted to plead guilty.

Pressdee said little as she entered her pleas, responding to most questions with a single word. When one of her lawyers asked her why she was pleading guilty, Pressdee replied, “Because I am guilty.”

The plea hearing was expected to last through 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 ill, none were ready to die.

Pressdee didn’t look at the speakers or react to their comments, even when one shouted an expletive at her that led the courtroom gallery to break out in applause, according to news reports.

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

Prosecutors alleged that Pressdee, of Harrison, gave excessive amounts of insulin to 22 patients, including some who weren’t diabetic. She typically administered the insulin during overnight shifts, when staffing was low and the emergencies wouldn’t prompt immediate hospitalization. Most of the patients died soon after receiving the insulin dose, or some time later.

Her nursing license was suspended early last year, not long after the initial charges were filed.

According to court documents, Pressdee sent her mother texts between April 2022 and May 2023 in which she discussed her unhappiness with various patients and colleagues, and spoke about potentially harming them. She also voiced similar complaints about people she encountered at restaurants and other places.

Pressdee had a history of being “disciplined for abusive behavior towards patients and/or staff at each facility resulting in her resigning or being terminated,” prosecutors said in court documents. Beginning in 2018, Pressdee held a number of jobs at western Pennsylvania nursing homes and facilities 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 he 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.