Suspicious insulin injections, nearly a dozen deaths: Inside an unfolding investigation at a VA hospital in West Virginia
By Lisa Rein
Oct. 5, 2019 at 6:03 p.m. EDT
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Four months after Melanie Proctor’s father was buried with military honors for his combat service in Vietnam, she came home to her farm to find an unfamiliar tan SUV in the driveway.
Two federal agents stepped out into the hot sun in August 2018. Proctor, a tax preparer, wondered whether one of her clients was in trouble.
“We’re here about your father,” the FBI agent said. “We don’t believe he died of natural causes.”
Flipping open a laptop on her kitchen counter, the agents showed Proctor her dad’s records from the three days he had been hospitalized at the local VA medical center.
What the line graph showed was alarming.
Someone had given her father, who was not a diabetic, a deadly injection of insulin, the investigators told Proctor — and he was not the only one.
In the early morning hours that April, Felix McDermott’s blood sugar had bottomed to dangerous levels. The retired Army sergeant his family knew as “Pap” died the next morning from severe hypoglycemia.
Multiple veterans had died under similar circumstances on the same ward, and the agents had come to Proctor’s farm in a hamlet 42 miles east of Clarksburg to ask the unthinkable: They wanted to dig up Pap’s body.
Proctor agreed, and her father was one of seven bodies exhumed in an investigation of 11 suspicious deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center, according to a person familiar with the case who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because it is ongoing.
The 14-month inquiry is the latest criminal investigation to engulf the Department of Veterans Affairs, intensifying questions about whether the country’s largest health-care system is doing enough to protect the veterans in its care.
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