Mug shot of Donald Harvey
|Born||April 15, 1952|
Butler County, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||March 30, 2017 (aged 64)|
|Cause of death||Blunt trauma|
|Criminal penalty||28 consecutive life sentences plus $270,000 in fines|
Span of crimes
|April 6, 1987|
|Imprisoned at||Toledo Correctional Institution, 1987|
Donald Harvey (April 15, 1952 – March 30, 2017) was an American serial killer and orderly who claimed to have murdered 87 people, though official estimates are between 37 and 57 victims. Harvey said he started out killing to "ease the pain" of patients. As time progressed, he began to enjoy it more and more and became a self-described "angel of death". Harvey was serving 28 life sentences at the Toledo Correctional Institution in Toledo, Ohio, having pleaded guilty to murder charges to avoid the death penalty.
Donald Harvey, a self-proclaimed “Old Plymouth Boy,” was born in Butler County, Ohio, near Cincinnati, in 1952. He dropped out of school in ninth grade, and began working in hospitals at the age of 18. His first medical job was as an orderly at the Marymount Hospital in London, Kentucky. He later confessed that during the ten-month period he worked at the hospital, he killed at least a dozen patients. His second victim was killed in the room with Danny George, a twelve year old child. Harvey was insistent that he killed purely out of a sense of empathy for the sufferings of those who were terminally ill. He also admitted that many of the killings he committed were due to anger at the victim.
The true extent of his crimes may never be known since so many were undetected for so long. Harvey used many methods to kill his victims, such as arsenic; cyanide; insulin; suffocation; miscellaneous poisons; morphine; turning off ventilators; administration of fluid tainted with hepatitis B and/or HIV (which resulted in a hepatitis infection, but no HIV infection, and illness rather than death); insertion of a coat hanger into a catheter, causing an abdominal puncture and subsequent peritonitis. Cyanide and arsenic were his most used methods, with Harvey administering them via food, injection, or IV. The majority of Harvey's crimes took place at the Marymount Hospital (now St. Joseph's – London) in London, Kentucky, the Cincinnati V.A. Medical Hospital, and Cincinnati's Drake Memorial Hospital. At various times, he worked as an orderly or an autopsy assistant.
Harvey did not limit his victims to helpless hospital patients. When he suspected his lover and roommate Carl Hoeweler of infidelity, he poisoned Hoeweler's food with arsenic so he would be too ill to leave their apartment. He poisoned two of his neighbors—sickening one, Diane Alexander, by putting hepatitis serum in her drink and killing the other, Helen Metzger, by putting arsenic in her pie. He also killed Hoeweler's father Henry with arsenic.
Harvey kept his crimes from coming to light for 17 years. However, the beginning of the end came in March 1987. An autopsy on John Powell, who had died abruptly after spending several months on life support due to a motorcycle accident, revealed large amounts of cyanide in his system. Harvey became a person of interest when investigators learned he'd been forced to resign from the Cincinnati V.A. hospital after it emerged he'd been stealing body parts for occult rituals. At the time, most hospitals did not vet orderlies as closely as doctors or nurses. When they brought Harvey in for questioning, he confessed to Powell's murder, claiming he'd euthanized Powell with cyanide.
When Pat Minarcin, then an anchor at WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, delved into Harvey's history, he doubted that this was a "one-off" case. He found it hard to believe that someone who had spent almost two decades caring for patients could suddenly kill one without having killed before. On the night of Harvey's arrest, Minarcin openly asked if there had been any other deaths. It turned out that several nurses at Drake had noticed a spike in deaths for at least seven months. They'd raised concerns with administrators, but had been ordered to keep quiet. Not wanting to chance that Harvey would be acquitted, they reached out to Minarcin for help, telling him that there was evidence Harvey killed at least ten more people.
Over the next months, Minarcin delved into the suspicious deaths. He amassed enough evidence to air a half-hour special report detailing evidence that linked Harvey to at least 24 murders in a four-year period. He had been able to stay under the radar in part because he worked in an area of Drake where patients were not expected to survive.
When Harvey's court-appointed lawyer, Bill Whalen, was briefed in advance about Minarcin's findings, he immediately asked Harvey if he'd killed anyone else. Harvey replied that by his "estimate," he'd killed as many as 70 people. Whalen knew that if prosecutors could link Harvey to more than one murder, Harvey could get the death penalty. In a bid to save his client's life, he offered prosecutors a deal–if the death penalty were taken off the table, Harvey would accept a sentence of life imprisonment and confess to all of his murders. The prosecutors agreed. In a marathon session with prosecutors, Harvey admitted to killing 24 people.
In August 1987, Harvey pleaded guilty to 24 counts of first-degree murder. In accordance with the plea agreement, he was sentenced to three concurrent terms of life in prison. The plea agreement allowed prosecutors to seek the death penalty if more murders came to light. With this in mind, that November Harvey pleaded guilty in Laurel County, Kentucky, circuit court to killing nine patients at Marymount in the 1970s. He was sentenced to life plus 20 years, to run concurrently with the Ohio sentence. Ultimately, Harvey pleaded guilty to 37 murders. However, he confessed to killing as many as 50 people.
On March 28, 2017, authorities reported that Harvey had been found in his cell severely beaten. He died on March 30, 2017. On May 3, 2019, fellow inmate James Elliott was charged with aggravated murder and other charges related to the death of Donald Harvey.
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- Interview on Mindhunter, MSNBC, November 30, 2008.
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- License To Kill: Killing Everything (Television Production). United States: Oxygen. 2019.
- Benjamin H. Smith (21 July 2019). "Nurse's Aide Pleads Guilty To Murdering 37 Victims With Cyanide, Arsenic, Rat Poison and Other Chemicals". Oxygen.
- Marais Jacon-Duffy (30 March 2017). "From The Vault: 'Angel of Death' case was unlike anything seen in Tri-State". WCPO-TV.
- Dirk Johnson (19 August 1987). "Ex-Nurse's Aide Admits Murders of 24 In 4 Years". The New York Times.
- "Former Nurse's Aide Admits 9 Killings in Hospital". The New York Times. The Associated Press. 3 November 1987.
- Offender Search Detail – Donald Harvey Archived 7 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
- "Donald Harvey, "Angel of Death" serial killer, dead at 64". CBS News. 30 March 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
- "'Angel of Death' serial killer Donald Harvey dies after prison attack". Fox News. 30 March 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
- Donald Harvey at The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
- Angel of Death: The Donald Harvey Story archived from <crimelibrary>
- CBS News: "Serial killer known as the "Angel of Death" found severely beaten in prison", March 29, 2017
- 'Angel of Death' serial killer dies after attack in prison