Kristen Gilbert (born November 13, 1967 as Kristen Strickland in Fall River, Massachusetts) is an American serial killer who was convicted for three first-degree murders, one second-degree murder, and two attempted murders of patients admitted for care at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Northampton, Massachusetts. She killed her patients by injecting them with epinephrine, causing them to have heart attacks.
As a child, Kristen Strickland exhibited a high scholastic aptitude. As she entered her teen years, friends and family took notice that she had become a habitual liar and was prone to neurotic behavior. She graduated from high school at age sixteen, graduated from Greenfield Community College, and received licensure as a registered nurse in 1988. Later that year, she married Glenn Gilbert. In 1989, she joined the staff of the VAMC in Northampton. She distinguished herself early on, and was featured in the magazine VA Practitioner in April 1990.
Although other nurses noticed a high number of deaths on Gilbert’s watch, they passed it off and jokingly called her the “Angel of Death.” In 1996, three nurses reported their concern about an increase in cardiac arrest deaths and a decrease in the supply of epinephrine; an investigation ensued. Gilbert telephoned in a bomb threat to attempt to derail the investigation.
Gilbert’s motives are not clear. Staff at the Northampton VAMC have speculated that her intent was to demonstrate her nursing skills by creating emergency situations, since there were an unusual number of cardiac arrests during the time in question and many of the patients survived. Others claim that she was using these emergency situations to gain the attention of James Perrault, a VA police officer who later had an affair with Gilbert. VA hospital rules required that hospital police be present at any medical emergency.
VA hospital staff members speculate that Gilbert may have been responsible for eighty or more deaths and over three hundred medical emergencies.
The prosecutor in her case, Assistant U.S. Attorney William M. Welch II, asserted that Gilbert was having an affair with VA police officer Perrault at the hospital. Perrault testified against Gilbert, saying that she confessed at least one murder to him. Defense attorney David P. Hoose claimed reasonable doubt based on a lack of direct evidence.
Kristen Gilbert, who had two children and was divorced from Glenn Gilbert, was convicted on March 14, 2001 in federal court. Though Massachusetts does not have capital punishment, her crimes were committed on federal property and thus subject to the death penalty. However, upon the jury’s recommendation, she was sentenced to life in prison without the chance for parole plus 20 years.
Gilbert was transferred from a federal prison for women in Framingham, MA, to a federal prison in Texas, where she has remained ever since. She is serving her sentence at Carswell Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. Gilbert dropped her federal appeal for a new trial after a recent US Supreme Court ruling that would have allowed prosecutors to pursue the death penalty upon retrial.
Gilbert was the subject of Perfect Poison, a book by Connecticut author M. William Phelps.