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Donald Harvey is interviewed in the Laurel County Jail during his trial.

The former hospital aide who killed 37 people — including patients at the former Marymount Hospital in London — died after being badly beaten Tuesday in his prison cell at  the Toledo (Ohio) Correctional Institute.

Harvey, 64, who was coined the “Angel of Death,” was serving multiple life sentences for the murders of 37 people in the 1970s and 1980s - most of which were patients in hospitals where he was employed as a nurses’ aide and autopsy worker.

Harvey was employed at the London hospital where he began his serial killing spree. He allegedly came to London when he was a mere 18 years old, supposedly to care for an elderly uncle who was hospitalized at Marymount Hospital. He landed a job there, but before long the hospital’s death rate began to climb.

His first victim was allegedly an elderly man who had a history of alcohol abuse. Harvey was trying to assist the man, who reportedly smeared feces on Harvey’s face. Harvey smothered him with a pillow.

That set the pace for Harvey’s self-appointed mission in life - ending the lives of those suffering. He left Marymount Hospital in 1971, but moved on to work in other medical facilities, including Cincinnati’s Veterans Hospital and Drake Memorial Hospital.

It was at Drake that Harvey’s sordid past came to light. 

A young pathologist discovered cyanide in the stomach of a motorcycle crash victim who had been on a respirator for approximately eight months during a routine autopsy. That launched an investigation into those with close contact with the 43-year-old man - and inevitably lead police to question medical personnel. But when police questioned Harvey, he reportedly readily admitted to killing the man. 

That admission on March 7, 1987, opened the doors to a shocking lifestyle of the man who was named as the first medical serial killer in the United States. 

Harvey was originally incarcerated in Hamilton County, Ohio Detention Center but was returned to London to answer charges for the murders of nine patients at Marymount Hospital between 1970 and 1971. Harvey confessed to many other deaths although he was only tried for the nine that could be proven. 

Tom Handy, who was the Commonwealth’s Attorney in London, remembers Harvey well.

“He was a very intelligent man and had a precise memory of what he did,” Handy said. “He knew the families of his victims, even what rooms they occupied at the hospital.”

Handy credited local law enforcement for their research on the patients and families that Harvey had dealt with.

“They were able to verify what he (Harvey) claimed, that it was a sympathy murder,” Handy continued. “It was a unique thing he confessed to and we were able to verify nine of 13. He was sane. He was just a killer.”

Harvey was convicted of the murders of nine people and received life sentences plus 20 years for his actions. Of those, six died when their oxygen supply was cut off, two were suffocated with a pillow and the last died when the bladder was punctured. 

As a nurses’ aide, Harvey allegedly only took the lives of patients who were suffering and had little hope of recovery. But his own revenge lead to other murders, including those whom he had differences. His means included poisoning by cyanide and arsenic - of which large amounts were found in Harvey’s residence.

For his crimes in Ohio, Harvey received three consecutive life terms. He allegedly killed 25 people there, including 21 who were patients at Drake Memorial Hospital.

Harvey claimed he only did what he thought was right.

An article from the New York Times quotes Harvey as saying: “I felt what I was doing was right. I was putting people out of their misery. I hope if I’m ever sick and full of tubes or on a respirator someone will come and end it.”

nohnson@sentinel-echo.com

 

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