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Susan Lynne HEY





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Nurse - Mercy killings
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: July 13/28, 1996
Date of arrest: January 4, 1997
Date of birth: October 11, 1958
Victims profile: Walter Lee Kelley, 80 / Harry Waddell, 83
Method of murder: Poisoning (potassium overdoses)
Location: Austin, Travis County, Texas, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to two 50-year sentences in prison on May 6, 1998

Ex-nurse faces prison in mercy killings

United Press International

Tuesday May 5, 1998

AUSTIN, Texas, May 5 (UPI) A former nurse is facing 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to the mercy killings of two elderly men at an Austin nursing home in 1996.

Susan Hey's lawyer says she acted out of compassion when she administered potassium overdoses to the men. The 39-year-old ex-nurse today faces at least 25 years in prison before she becomes eligible for parole.

Attorney Linda Icenhauer-Ramirez says: ''We decided we had no choice. If she was convicted of (capital murder), it was going to be an automatic life sentence.''

Hey admitted killing the elderly men with the potassium when she worked as a nurse at the home. She was sentenced to two, concurrent 50- year sentences on Monday after pleading guilty.

The deaths of 80-year-old Walter Lee Kelley and 83-year-old Harry Waddell were originally ruled to be from natural causes.

Icenhauer-Ramirez says Hey had grown close to both men and ''truly cared'' for them. When their health began deteriorating, she says her client injected potassium in their feeding tubes.

Kelley and Waddell had been buried without autopsies. The deaths probably would have never raised suspicion if Hey had kept silent.

Hey told her husband, Mark, what she had done. He was unsure if she was telling the truth, but he later confided it to their pastor and marriage counselor, who called police with Mark Hey's permission.


Susan Hey must serve at least 25 years for killing two patients at South Austin nursing home

Susan Hey: According to her lawyer, deaths caused by overdoses of potassium were mercy killings.

By Dave Harmon - The Austin American-Statesman Staff

May 5, 1998

Susan Hey's lawyer said compassion led Hey to kill two patients in 1996 in the Austin nursing home where she worked, and the realization that she would probably lose a jury trial led Hey to plead guilty to two counts of murder on Monday.

Hey, 39, admitted to killing the men with potassium overdoses when she worked  as a nurse at the Cannon Oaks Rehabilitation and Nursing Center on William Cannon Drive. On Monday, she was sentenced to two 50-year sentences, which will run concurrently.

Hey, who originally faced a capital murder charge, must serve at least 25 years in prison before she becomes eligible for parole.

"We decided we had no choice,'' said Linda Icenhauer-Ramirez, Hey's lawyer. "If she was convicted of (capital murder), it was going to be an automatic life sentence.''

Walter Lee Kelley, 80, died at the nursing home on July 13, 1996. On July 28, Harry Waddell died at age 83. Both deaths were ruled to be from natural causes at the time.

Icenhauer-Ramirez said Hey was close to both men, and when their health deteriorated dramatically, she injected potassium in their feeding tubes.

"I think she truly cared for these people and felt she was doing the right thing, although now she will tell you it was not the right thing,'' Icenhauer-Ramirez said.

Kelley and Waddell were buried without autopsies. The deaths probably would have never raised suspicion if Hey had been able to keep her silence.

But she told her husband, Mark, what she had done. Mark Hey, unsure whether his wife was telling him the truth, wrote it down in his diary and did not tell anyone for five months.

He eventually confided in their pastor and marriage counselor, Mark Weaver, who called the police -- with Mark Hey's permission -- to see whether Susan Hey's story could be true.

That sparked an investigation that led to Hey's confession to police. She later recanted and tried to fight the charge.

Police had a tough time getting physical evidence, even after exhuming the men's bodies, because while a large dose of potassium can stop the heart, the natural potassium level in a body rises after death, masking an overdose.

Icenhauer-Ramirez said Hey also hurt her own defense by confessing to neighbors and friends, who would have been called to testify by the state.

The law doesn't recognize any distinction between mercy killing and any other murder, so testimony about her motive would not have been allowed in a trial, Icenhauer-Ramirez said.


Fatal dose went unnoticed by all until anonymous tip

By Bob Banta - The Austin American-Statesman

January 6, 1997

The potassium injection that police say killed an 83-year-old nursing home resident almost certainly would have gone unnoticed if not for an anonymous tip, Travis County's top forensic expert said Sunday.

Susan Lynne Hey, 38, formerly a nurse at Cannon Oaks Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in South Austin, was in jail Sunday in lieu of $100,000 bail on a charge of murder. Police said she told them she injected a fatal dose of potassium into the feeding tube of Cannon Oaks resident Harry Waddell in July.

Travis County Medical Examiner Robert Bayardo said the tip and Hey' s statement to police are vital.

An autopsy was not conducted on Waddell because his death occurred in a medical facility and he had a terminal illness. However, even if an autopsy had been done, Bayardo said, "It is impossible to determine a potassium overdose."

Bayardo said it is normal after death for blood cells to break down and release potassium into body fluids.

"Because of this, it is normal for potassium to show up in high levels, " said Bayardo, the county's medical examiner since 1978. "The longer the body is dead, the higher the potassium content."

He said high doses of potassium can cause an irregular heartbeat that stops the heart and causes death.

Waddell, a retired trucking company employee from California, died July 28.

Police said detectives began investigating Waddell's death on Thursday night after they received a tip from an anonymous caller who said that Hey had injected an elderly nursing home resident named "Harry" with a lethal dose of potassium.

According to arrest affidavits, Austin homicide detectives Robert Merrill and Paul Johnson went to Hey's home at 3804 Holt Drive, near McCarty and Brodie lanes, and asked her to come to police headquarters for questioning. Merrill said Hey told them she administered potassium to Waddell "in an amount which she knew could cause heart arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) and cause Waddell to die."

Police will not say what they believe Hey's motive was.

Merrill said Hey told the officers she administered 60 cubic centimenters of potassium through Waddell's feeding tube, which goes down the throat to the stomach and is used to feed patients who have difficulty swallowing.

Bayardo said Sunday he believes 60 cubic centimeters of potassium would not be enough to cause death unless the victim's kidney's kidneys did not function properly. Nursing home officials would not disclose Waddell's illness, and family members declined to give interviews Sunday.

"It may be that the district attorney will ask for an exhumation," Bayardo said. "We could determine by microscopic examination whether the kidneys were in good shape."

A small plaque

Hey's husband, Mark, declined to discuss the case or talk about his wife Sunday.

"I just got back this morning from taking our children to church, " he said. "I have no comment." The couple has three children.

Administrator James Whitis said Sunday he would not reveal details of Hey's employment at the nursing home, or why she left her job.

Whitis said Hey's credentials, including her nurse's license and a criminal background check, were examined before she was hired.

Cannon Oaks, 1015 W. William Cannon Drive, is owned by Beverly Enterprises Inc., a company based in Arkansas with 640 nursing homes nationwide.

A $168,000 fine

Last year, federal regulators rescinded a $168,000 fine imposed in July against Cannon Oaks, according to officials with the federal Health Care Financing Administration in Dallas.

Sharon Flippen, a Beverly representative in Texas, said in September that the company fought the $168,000 fine because it was excessive.

Among problems state inspectors found, records show, the nursing home staff gave the wrong medication to residents and failed to give medication on time. Whitis said Sunday that the facility corrected the flaws and that Texas Department of Human Services inspectors found that the facility conformed to standards during inspections on Aug. 21 and Sept. 16.

Advocates of nursing home residents said Sunday they were saddened by Waddell's death.

Marie Wisdom, president of Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said her lobbying group is trying to push new regulations through the Texas Legislature that would require more supervision of nurses in residential care centers.

She said the group also wants checks on the criminal background of nursing applicants at care centers to be done from a nationwide database instead of the current practice of only checking whether a nurse has a criminal record in Texas.

"But even with close supervision, it is difficult to catch a criminal if they are going to play God," Wisdom said.


SEX: F  RACE: W  TYPE: S  MOTIVE: PC-"mercy"

MO: Nurse at rest home; injected elderly men with potassium.

DISPOSITION: Pled guilty, 1998; 50-year term with 25-year minimum.



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