Mass. Nurse Guilty of Murder

A former veterans hospital nurse was convicted today of murdering four patients with drug injections and attempting to kill two others.

Kristen Gilbert, 33, faces the death penalty. She bent her head and wept quietly as the verdict was read.

Gilbert was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder and four counts of assault with intent to kill, along with other lesser charges. She was acquitted of attempting to kill one veteran.

Because the deaths happened on federal property — the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northampton — the case was tried in federal court, where first-degree murder can be punishable by death. Massachusetts does not have a death penalty.

Relative: 'I'm Really Happy'

The same jury that convicted her will begin hearing the penalty phase of the case Monday to determine whether she should be sentenced to die.

"I'm really, really happy," said Susan Lessard, the only daughter of Stanley Jagadowski, 66, of Holyoke, who died Aug. 21, 1995. Gilbert was convicted of second-degree murder in his death.

"I don't care whether it was first-degree or second-degree, though the death penalty wouldn't have bothered me because she took my father's life," Lessard said.

Prosecutors said Gilbert injected the patients with overdoses of epinephrine, or adrenaline, which sent their hearts racing out of control. They said she wanted to put herself in the middle of medical emergencies to be noticed and to attract attention from her lover, a hospital security guard.

Gilbert's lawyers blamed the emergencies and deaths on natural causes, and argued that she was falsely accused by co-workers who were upset she was having an extramarital affair.

Prosecution Wins Despite Setback

The government was dealt an early blow in the trial when prosecutors were forced to drop a key piece of evidence.

At the start of the trial, prosecutors said Dr. Fredric Rieders would testify that his analysis of tissue samples from the patients proved epinephrine poisoning. But Rieders was dropped as a witness when the government learned he had miscalculated.

Prosecutors also said Gilbert confessed to the murders to her then-boyfriend, James Perrault, and her estranged husband. Both testified against her.

Gilbert's lawyers attacked those confessions, saying she made them while hospitalized because of the stress of the murder investigation.

Defense attorney David Hoose said Gilbert's patients were already ill and at risk of heart failure.

"Every single one of these people had a coronary disease, were at risk for a coronary disease or at risk for sudden cardiac death," he said in closing arguments. "If you start out looking at these cases with a suspicious eye, then you'll find suspicion."