Being a nurse wasn’t necessarily a calling for Elizabeth Wettlaufer. It was a decision she made more out of need than any desire to help the sick and elderly.
It paid the bills — something Wettlaufer had long had trouble doing — so when she was offered a full-time job in 2007 at Caressant Care in Woodstock, Ont., she jumped at it. At about $60,000 a year, the job at the largestcare home in the region promised a degree of financial stability she desperately needed.
Up until then, her life had been in shambles. In addition to money pressures, she battled mental illness and struggled with her sexual identity.
The new job also came with a significant amount of responsibility. Working mostly nights, Wettlaufer was in charge of 32 elderly patients, their medications and their well-being. She was effectively their keeper — and it was onlya matter of weeks before she began to prey on them.
Wettlaufer would inject varying doses of insulin into her charges, looking to find out just how much it would take to kill someone. And how easy it might be to get away with it.
“Killing someone is wrong — period. But everyone has a reason, even if it’s a twisted one.”
This small, benign-looking woman would eventually confess to killing eight patients and trying to kill or harm six others between 2007 and 2016, making her one of the worst serial killers in Canadian history.
What made this revelation so astonishing is that the crimes went undetected for almost a decade. Wettlaufer wasn’t on anyone’s radar until she spilled her horrendous secrets in the fall of 2016.
Some of Wettlaufer’s victims had been ill, suffering from horrible physical afflictions; others were simply battling the ravages of time. In every case, the patient was vulnerable and defenseless. The fact that she was such a prolifickiller speaks to the conditions of her victims and the lack of oversight.
But why was she compelled to do it? The 50-year-old Wettlaufer has said little publicly about her motives, although she admitted to police that she was often under the sway of a dark feeling she calls "the red surge."
People who have known her for a long time say the circumstances of the crimes say a lot about her state of mind.
“Killing someone is wrong — period,” said Glen Hart, who has known Wettlaufer most of her life. “But everyone has a reason, even if it’s a twisted one.”
And in the case of Elizabeth Wettlaufer, it seems to have been a need for control, something that always eluded her. As a nurse, she had ultimate control: She decided who lived and who died.
And it didn’t take much to tip the scale in either direction.
Wettlaufer was born and raised on the outskirts of Woodstock in a small farming community called South Zorra Township. Everyone there knew her by her maiden name, Beth Parker.
Glen Hart lived across the street from the Parker home and said that if you were looking for a way to describe the household, “if you think 1950s, Leave It to Beaver sort of image in your head, that’s the kind ofimage that would be portrayed.”
Hart recalled that Wettlaufer’s parents “were very controlling.” The Parker household adhered to Christian fundamentalist beliefs. Wettlaufer’s father, Doug, was an elder in the local church. Hart, who cameout as gay in the 1980s, said that Doug Parker and other church elders disapproved of his homosexuality. Hart said that soon after coming out, he was asked to leave the church.
“Beth’s mum was very compliant to her dad,” Hart said, and “Beth was expected to be the good girl.”
As a child, Hart said, Wettlaufer was shy and awkward and frequently the target of verbal abuse from other kids, who would tease her, “Here comes little Bethie Parker.” He said that when she was seven years old, Wettlauferhatched a plan she thought would alter how other kids treated her: a name change.
“She said, ‘I hate being called Bethie. I’m going with Beth with an “e.”’ And she decided she was going to add an ‘e’ onto her name from then on,” said Hart.
So it was no longer “Beth.” It was “Bethe.”
“That’s how she had to be special,” Hart noted.
This odd resolution was an early example of Wettlaufer trying to impose her will on something — although ultimately to little effect. The kids may have started calling her Bethe, but pronounced it the same way as before: “Bethie.”
In high school, Wettlaufer seemed to fare a little better. She was the goalie on the field hockey team and was in a few school bands. But she exhibited a devious, vindictive side: She once pulled a fire alarm hoping it would get a boyshe didn’t like in trouble.
She was also struggling with her sexuality. She made advances to a teenage girl in her neighbourhood but was rebuffed.
Wettlaufer was a deeply conflicted person, one day wanting to repent for her perceived wrongdoings, the next trying to validate her true feelings and identity. By Grade 13, a sense of futility seemed to be setting in, as evidenced in poemsshe wrote for the yearbook.
Wettlaufer had originally wanted to study journalism and spent a year in college doing just that. But when it failed to sustain her interest, she came up with another career choice: mediation and guidance.
She enrolled at London Baptist Bible College (now called Heritage Baptist College) in nearby London, Ont., to get a bachelor’s degree in counseling. Hart said that while she was there, Wettlaufer's father was also taking coursesand trying to keep close tabs on his daughter. At one point, she was sent home after someone spotted her with a girlfriend at a gay-friendly church.
As Hart recalled, “She had to leave the school and came back ... She was all like, ‘I’m sorry, I sinned. I’m never going to do this again. Just pray for me, OK?’” At this point, Wettlaufer alsoagreed to undergo a controversial process known as conversion or reparative therapy — an attempt to set her straight, literally. Hart said some people in her family wanted to “un-gay” her.
Wettlaufer would later lament to friends that she had little say in the decision. She talked about “how she lived with a lot of depression, a lot of self-loathing and self-doubt,” Hart said.
While she eventually graduated from the Baptist college with her counseling degree, Wettlaufer questioned whether it was the right vocation. She soon returned to college — this time for the three-year nursing program at ConestogaCollege in Stratford, Ont.
After becoming a licensed Ontario nurse in 1995, Wettlaufer bounced around a number of placements in Woodstock, including a social services agency helping people with disabilities and the Victoria Rest Home. She took a full-time job ata hospital in the town of Geraldton — 16 hours northwest of Woodstock — but soon returned home, complaining that the location was too isolated.
She remained sexually confused and struggled to live the life she felt she was supposed to. In 1997, she married Donnie Wettlaufer, a local truck driver she met at a Baptist church. The pair moved into a modest white bungalow just offWoodstock’s main street.
In this period, Wettlaufer was beset by a host of problems. According to her family, she sought treatment for a borderline personality disorder. She also realized she had a drug addiction. She later revealed that her nursing licence wasrestricted early in her career after she stole hydromorphone — an opioid prescribed to reduce severe pain — from one of her jobs.
Her doubts about her sexuality frequently surfaced, and she began reaching out to women online.
Wettlaufer overdosed on the narcotic but survived. Temporarily unable to work, she picked up the odd shift as a personal support worker in various care homes.
Her doubts about her sexuality frequently surfaced, and she began reaching out to women online. In 2007, her husband discovered one of those relationships had developed into something deeper. Confused and angry about his wife’sbetrayal, he left her.
Her marriage was over, but Wettlaufer’s new romance — with a woman — flourished. They had met online and eventually moved into a two-bedroom apartment Wettlaufer rented across town, even becoming engaged. (The womanrefused to speak to CBC.)
To this day, Doug and Hazel Parker don’t acknowledge the true nature of that or any of the other relationships their daughter had with women. Wettlaufer’s mother described them as “roommates” who were down ontheir luck. She said her daughter “was kind and often offered to help people in need” by renting out a spare bedroom.
When asked about Donnie Wettlaufer’s true reason for leaving their daughter, Hazel Parker said “he didn’t want a sick wife,” a reference to Wettlaufer’s psychological problems. Her parents also downplayher drug problems, dismissing them as “medication mix-ups” or “stress-related” episodes.
Wettlaufer continued to live with her girlfriend not far from her parents’ home. But at a certain point, she needed more money to support both her and her partner, which is why she took the job at Caressant Care.
It’s there that she developed a dangerous new addiction.
By the time she started at Caressant Care in 2007, Wettlaufer had a dozen years of nursing experience, much of it in diagnosing blood-sugar problems and injecting insulin when necessary.
Doing so was straightforward. Insulin cartridges are inserted into an insulin “pen.” On one end is the needle; on the other, a small plastic dial.
Like many long-term care facilities, Caressant Care didn’t secure or keep close tabs on its insulin supplies. And Wettlaufer soon found out how much was needed to kill a person.
Wettlaufer would later describe “dialing up,” the process of using the pen to release massive doses of the drug. She would plunge it into a discreet spot in her victims’ bodies, and the drug would course through theirveins, eventually sending them into hypoglycemic shock — a blood-sugar level crash.
Just days after being hired at Caressant, Wettlaufer dialed up and stuck the insulin pen into Clotilde Adriano, who was 88 years old and suffered from dementia. Adriano survived, but only because other staff at Caressant noticed she wasfailing and were able to restore her blood sugar levels.
Wettlaufer later recounted in her confession to police that she didn’t really want Adriano to die. “I just don’t know. I was angry and, um, had this sense inside me that she might be a person God wanted back with him,”she said. “I honestly felt that God wanted to use me.”
Wettlaufer was doing the same “hit and miss” experiment on Adriano’s sister-in-law, Albina Demedeiros, although she didn’t kill her, either.
Some of Wettlaufer’s victims would “stroke out,” as Wettlaufer put it — their bodies would contort, froth foaming from their mouths. Eventually, vital organs would start to shut down. Death could be relativelyquick — maybe a few hours. In some cases, the victims slipped into a vegetative state for days before finally succumbing.
It was three months into her stint at Caressant when Wettlaufer actually killed a patient.
She was asked to look after a new resident, an 84-year-old Second World War veteran named James Silcox, who had lost his mobility because of a stroke.
When Wettlaufer started a double shift on Aug. 11, 2007, Silcox was agitated, unsure of his whereabouts and often calling out for his wife, Agnes. Wettlaufer later talked about how a “red surge” was boiling inside her. Shewas “angry” at Silcox and “wanted him to die.”
At about 9:30 p.m., Wettlaufer walked down the hall toward the medical storage room. She loaded the insulin pen and sent 50 units of quick-acting insulin shooting into Silcox’s body — twice as much as she had used with Adrianoand Demedeiros.
Before he slipped into unconsciousness, Silcox reportedly called out, “I’m sorry. I love you.” It’s not clear whom he was addressing. Wettlaufer claimed to feel pangs of shame about what she had done, but alsoadmitted it felt “like a pressure had been relieved from me.”
Three days before Christmas 2007, Wettlaufer dialed up and killed again.
According to court documents, Wettlaufer was tormented but never incapable of distinguishing right from wrong. Personality testing revealed Wettlaufer exhibited “significant symptoms of borderline personality disorder,” includingmood instability, impulsivity, fear of abandonment, unstable relationships and anger.
Medical records indicate her mental illness and reliance on drugs were documented but that she had been able to function with them for many years.
“Much of this behaviour seemed to have worsened since her husband left [in 2007], but this behaviour was present prior to her marriage as well,” said one medical report about her mental state. In fact, some time after theage of 15, Wettlaufer had developed what doctors diagnosed as “antisocial personality disorder.”
To complicate things, psychiatrists eventually determined she had “difficulties with being brought up in a controlled Baptist home environment.” Wettlaufer struggled with her religious beliefs. She was a regular and committedparishioner, but a conflicted one.
She seemed less conflicted by now about her sexual identity and would often go surfing for love online. By early 2008, Wettlaufer’s relationship with her fiancée had ended, and she had connected with Sheila Andrews, a prisoncafeteria worker in Prince Albert, Sask. That summer, Andrews invited Wettlaufer out West for a week-long visit.
“She enjoyed the power. I think she enjoyed that the most.”
Andrews remembered the nurse strutting off the plane in a summer dress and bright red lipstick and overwhelming her with affection. Not only did Wettlaufer come “charging” at her for hugs and kisses, but she gushed abouttheir relationship.
“It was just non-stop,” said Andrews. “‘Oh, I told all the people I work with how much I love you, and we’re gonna get together and everything like that.’ I was just like, ‘OK, like, slowdown here. Let’s get to know each other.’”
They spent their first night together in a motel near the Saskatoon airport. When Andrews woke up the next day, she was convinced the relationship was not going to work. Over the next few days, Andrews began to feel there was another,more troubling side to her guest.
“She pouted a lot and [had] little temper tantrums, you know, like if she didn’t get something her own way, like my affection and stuff like that,” said Andrews. “There was a lot of childish issues with her,and I just thought, ‘You’re a grown woman. Act like it.’”
Despite being a career nurse, Wettlaufer showed no interest in meeting Andrew’s elderly mother, who was ailing in a nearby hospital. Wettlaufer did, however, talk about her own medical responsibilities back in Woodstock.
“She seemed to be quite proud of being a nurse,” said Andrews. “I think she liked the fact that she was in charge in the evenings. She enjoyed the power. I think she enjoyed that the most.”
After Andrews rejected her at the end of a week-long visit, Wettlaufer headed home, dejected and bitter.
With her latest relationship over, she turned her focus back to work. She also began writing graphic poems, posting them online on the site Allpoetry.com under the pen name Betty Weston. Some were seemingly innocuous, others a little darker:
Where am I left then.
What would they say?
Yes, what will they say
When the real truth is known?
When it is found out,
What I do alone.
* * *
By the end of 2011, three more residents at Caressant had died unexpectedly: Gladys Millard, Helen Matheson and Mary Zurawinski. Nothing suspicious was reported to authorities. There were no autopsies.
At Caressant, it was up to Wettlaufer to alert authorities if a questionable death occurred on her watch. She was the one who would fill out a checklist outlining whether or not anything untoward may have caused the residents to die unexpectedly.Essentially, the system allowed her to report her own crimes, which she didn’t do.
Even so, there was a constant fear at the back of Wettlaufer’s mind of being caught — of losing control of her horrific secrets.
On Nov. 7, 2011, the day after killing Zurawinski, Wettlaufer flew to Florida with an ex-girlfriend. Although the two had broken up weeks earlier, they had already booked a Caribbean cruise, and neither wanted to miss it. After returning to Canada, they visited Trish Crosbie, a friend who lived near Toronto.
Crosbie recalled that Wettlaufer seemed fine at first but later started acting “very quiet and standoffish.” Wettlaufer said she was preoccupied with the recent death of a patient but wouldn’t give many details.
“I asked her, ‘How did this person die?’ She said, like, 'I'm not sure.'“
Wettlaufer was normally “overly pushy, trying to get your attention, saying, ‘Look at me, look at me,’” Crosbie said. “This time, she was very quiet and not wanting to talk to people and … almostdepressed.
“Looking back on it now, I wonder if she was … reflecting on something she may have done.”
Dealing with the “red surge” wasn’t the only thing distracting Wettlaufer at work. There was also her drug addiction.
Wettlaufer told authorities that she was never high at work. But at least one colleague claimed she had been found “passed out” in the basement at Caressant Care on the night shift.
By her own admission, hydromorphone was her drug of choice, and she was binging on it several times a month. She could no longer control the drug. It was controlling her.
Hydromorphone is always at hand in a care facility. Caressant supposedly kept closer tabs on its hydromorphone stocks than on insulin, but Wettlaufer had discovered more ways to steal the drug from her patients.
“When police phoned about it, I played dumb.”
There was hydromorphone in their allotted medications, but as Wettlaufer later revealed to police, “Some of [the patients] had … confusion, so they couldn’t tell the difference between what pills you were giving them.I could give them a laxative instead of their hydromorph.”
In other cases, Wettlaufer would open the capsule, swallow the contents and give the patient an empty pill case. They never complained. She also took the narcotics of patients who had died. In one case, there were 23 hydromorphone pillsleft in a medication case belonging to a deceased resident.
The nurse monitored when new drug supplies arrived. If they weren’t put in the safe right away, she would snatch them up and take them home. It often took weeks or months before anyone noticed drugs were missing.
“When police phoned about it,” Wettlaufer later confided to investigators, “I played dumb.”
One of the effects of the hydromorphone was that it kept Wettlaufer more relaxed at work. “I was always just feeling like I had to be the best person,” she later told police. She said she could “get a hold of a hydromorph,or two or three, and take it, then that pressure was gone.”
For almost two years, Wettlaufer didn’t want to kill anymore. But by 2013, the “red surge” was back.
She later told investigators that Helen Young, a 90-year-old at Caressant, “was very difficult to deal with.” Wettlaufer was also annoyed that Young, deep in the clutches of dementia, was constantly crying out for help.
Just before dinner on July 13, 2013, Wettlaufer prepared two injections and stuck Young with all the insulin the pens could possibly hold. Over the course of three hours, Young’s face went red, her eyes bulged and her limbs bentinward, the result of a seizure induced by the insulin overdoses. By morning, she was dead.
Wettlaufer would later console Young’s distraught niece, pulling the weeping woman close and offering soothing words. It was the ultimate act of control and betrayal.
Describing her crime to police, Wettlaufer said she felt “the surging” and “laughter” afterward, which was really like “a cackling from the pit of hell.”
On occasion, Wettlaufer’s surges of anger were followed by equally sharp pangs of guilt, or at least a need to lessen the load on her shoulders. At the time, Wettlaufer was attending the multi-denominational Family Church in Woodstock,and that summer, she said she drove to her pastor’s home and revealed her deadly secrets to him and his wife.
“They prayed over me,” Wettlaufer told police. “And they said to me how this was God’s grace. ‘But if you ever do this again, we will have to turn you in to the police.’” The pastor, whohas never been named by police, later told police he wasn’t sure whether to believe the nurse.
By early 2014, seven patients under Wettlaufer’s watch had died, and four others had survived unexplained hypoglycemic episodes. After being suspended four times for making non-insulin-related medication errors that harmed patients,Caressant fired Wettlaufer in March of that year.
Caressant reported her numerous mistakes to the Ontario’s College of Nurses, the professional organization that oversees nursing practices and conduct, but the college took no known action to sanction Wettlaufer. Her transgressionsremained private. A provincial public inquiry has since been called into the circumstances of the Wettlaufer case and the oversight of long-term care homes in Ontario.
Weeks after being fired by Caressant, Wettlaufer was interviewed for a job at Meadow Park Long Term Care in London, Ont. The facility needed a nurse to help care for its approximately 120 patients. When asked about her previous termination,Wettlaufer told Meadow Park’s nursing supervisor that she’d been fired for making medicine errors. The supervisor told Wettlaufer she believed in “second chances” and offered her a one-year contract workingevenings.
Meadow Park has maintained it checked Wettlaufer’s references and her status with the College. Regardless, a month after being hired, Wettlaufer killed again. Her eighth victim was Arpad Horvath, who “stroked out”in August 2014 after receiving massive doses of insulin.
It seemed that at this point, Wettlaufer couldn’t control any of her urges — her need to kill, her addiction to drugs or her growing fondness for hard alcohol.
Shortly after Horvath’s death, Wettlaufer quit her job at Meadow Park in order to get help for her opioid addiction. Her mother drove her to a rehab facility in Port Colborne, Ont., where she stayed for about a month.
Despite the deaths on Wettlaufer’s watch, there had been no investigations — not even suspicion of wrongdoing. Death in the long-term care industry was commonplace, but Wettlaufer couldn’t stop her urge to hasten it.
In early 2015, about two months after getting out of rehab, Wettlaufer was caring for the sick and elderly again, working part-time at care homes in towns surrounding Woodstock. At Telfer Place in Paris, Ont., Wettlaufer tried to killagain. After she pumped Sandra Towler, an elderly woman suffering from dementia, with insulin, Towler slipped into hypoglycemic shock. She was saved by other staff at the facility, who found her in bed suffering.
As Wettlaufer would later tell police, she wasn’t sure if she perceived her surges as acts of God or the devil. She referred to God a number of times in her confession, but she never rationalized her actions by calling herself anangel of mercy.
The “red surge” seemed to be back — and she seemed to have a strong need to talk about it.
In the summer of 2016, Wettlaufer reached out to former lover Sheila Andrews in Saskatchewan. She wrote her old flame through Facebook Messenger, saying, “I am restless tonight. Hyper about my job. Having a hard time getting oneof the required skills right. The skill is changing the dressing on an IV line that goes directly to the heart. I violated the sterile field and put things in the wrong place today.”
Wettlaufer was likely referring to Bev Bertram, a 68-year-old woman she was caring for in Ingersoll, Ont. Bertram lived a shuttered life with her partner in a public housing complex and was rarely seen by neighbours. Police would lateraccuse Wettlaufer of stealing insulin from another patient and administering a lethal dose of it into a catheter in Bertram’s arm.
If Wettlaufer was losing control again, she was about to reach her breaking point. But this time, the target tempting her wasn’t the sick, the elderly or the weak. It was children.
Wettlaufer was still picking up temp jobs with Saint Elizabeth Health Care, one of the oldest nursing agencies in Canada, in the summer of 2016, when Saint Elizabeth’s proposed a placement at a school program in Ingersoll that neededhelp treating children with diabetes.
She would monitor the children’s insulin pumps to make sure they were getting the right amount. Who better for the job, they thought, than a veteran nurse who had spent years administering the drug?
Wettlaufer later revealed to police that she couldn’t trust herself not to kill again, even a child. So she passed on this job opportunity.
On Aug. 29, 2016, Wettlaufer decided to walk away from nursing entirely. Without employment in her chosen profession, she had few places to turn.
* * *
One day, back at her apartment, she knocked on the door of her neighbour Wade Messenger. “She looked very stressed out, shaky … Her face didn’t look the same,” he said. “She looked like she was sick.”
Messenger didn’t like Wettlaufer much and suspected her of previously having vandalized his bicycle, his son’s stroller and his door lock. The two had feuded over the years, but he had also noticed that she seemed to be workingless and was willing to hear her out.
He said she told him, “I don’t have any pills. I’m suffering from morphine withdrawals.” Wettlaufer wanted something — anything — to ease the withdrawal symptoms and knew that Messenger occasionallysmoked medicinal marijuana for his glaucoma. He gave her a joint on the condition she wouldn’t come asking again. And she didn’t.
If there was a rock bottom for Wettlaufer, this was likely it.
She couldn’t be sure who or what was controlling her. “Part of me started to believe I was the devil,” she told investigators.
She decided she needed psychiatric help. Before she left her apartment to check into an institution, Wettlaufer asked a friend to take Nashville, her beloved Jack Russell terrier. Messenger was one of the only people to see her shuffleout of the apartment complex, head hung low, suitcase in hand.
“She looked defeated. Totally defeated and at her wit’s end.”
Wettlaufer headed for the Woodstock train station, and about two hours later, checked herself into the emergency ward at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.
Up until now, there had been no police investigation of Wettlaufer’s activities. That was about to change.
Any time that Wettlaufer had tried, in her own way, to confess her crimes in the past, she hadn’t been taken seriously. Her pastor thought she may have been bluffing. One of Wettlaufer’s ex-girlfriends didn’t thinkanything more of it when the nurse said she was having dreams about killing people.
It’s likely because Wettlaufer could be kind, polite and funny, according to people who knew her. But she could also be manipulative, calculating and deceitful.
Once she was at CAMH, Wettlaufer was determined to be taken seriously. Over the next 20 days, she confessed repeatedly — to almost anyone who would listen — that for much of the past decade, she had embarked on a killingspree to ease her own seething rage. This disturbing information set off one of the largest police probes in Ontario history.
Dr. Alan Kahn, her psychiatrist at CAMH, suggested she organize her thoughts on paper and warned that anything she revealed would be turned over to police.
She eventually provided him with a four-page handwritten confession outlining whom she had killed or harmed and when. While she couldn’t recall the last names of all of her victims, the details were presented very matter-of-factly,as though she were recounting the mundane details of her drive to work.
There was no apparent sense of deep remorse. The only emotion appeared to be relief.
While undergoing treatment, she reached out to several other people outside the medical and police communities. The most explicit revelations were kept for her old friend Glen Hart, to whom she sent a series of messages on Facebook. Hartdidn’t yet know the grave secrets she kept.
“She had something she wanted to tell me. And then she disclosed that, ‘Well, somebody had died because of something I did at work.’ I assumed it to be accidental and responded accordingly,” Hart recalled. “Andthen she disclosed that it wasn’t accidental and that it wasn’t just one.”
Hart wasn’t sure what to make of it. He wondered if these were bizarre ramblings or a confession of sadistic crimes?
“I asked, ‘Why did you do this, what brought it on?’ She said, ‘Oh, I had some anger issues that I had to deal with, some really major anger issues.’ She said, ‘I think that I was acting out myanger issues on these people.’”
Hart told Wettlaufer she had to call police, unaware that staff at CAMH had already done just that.
Hart offered his friend some words of encouragement. “It will be hard for you,” he wrote. “Be strong, tell the truth.”
“Thank you, I will,” she replied.
When police came to CAMH, the nurse agreed to go with them to a local police station and give a recorded statement. They notified police back in Woodstock. Police there, and in London, would take part in a massive investigation, led byhomicide investigators from the Ontario Provincial Police.
Wettlaufer also wanted to reveal her crimes to Ontario’s College of Nurses and surrendered her nursing licence.
To her closest friends, Wettlaufer never let on anything drastic was going on, let alone that she was a murderer.
On Oct. 5, 2016, Wettlaufer was discharged from CAMH, but there was still little more than a confession for police to work with. Quietly, investigators were poring through death notices and medical records. Soon, they pieced together fullnames of all alleged victims. Nursing logs showed Wettlaufer was with the victims at, or near, the time they were poisoned.
The net was closing in. Wettlaufer knew it. She agreed to a court order preventing her from possessing insulin or going anywhere near long-term care homes.
Back at her apartment complex, police searched her home, carting away boxes of evidence, including her computer. Wettlaufer’s biggest concern appeared to be her belongings. She even asked a detective if her place “would bea mess” when she got home.
A portion of Wettlaufer's videotaped confession to Woodstock Police in October 2016. (Woodstock Police)
A portion of Wettlaufer's videotaped confession to Woodstock Police in October 2016. (Woodstock Police)
To her closest friends, Wettlaufer still never let on anything drastic was going on, let alone that she was a murderer. Nancy Gilbert and another woman in the complex agreed to go for dinner with Wettlaufer at a local steakhouse. All thefriends knew was that she was supposed to be staying with her parents and that she was under some sort of restrictions. Wettlaufer downplayed it all.
Gilbert said they “talked and laughed and joked.”
“And she just brought up, ‘Has a policeman been around on my floor, asking anybody questions?’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know,’ and the other lady said, ‘I think they were around.’And she said to us, ‘Well, I like police in uniform, and they don’t scare me at all,’” Gilbert said.
“That was odd.”
* * *
Three days later, Wettlaufer was arrested and charged with eight counts of first degree murder. Police would later add four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault.
There wouldn’t be a trial, because in June 2017, eight months after confessing, Wettlaufer pleaded guilty to all charges. The judge in the case sentenced her to life in prison.
Wettlaufer has offered little by way of explanation. She spoke only briefly during her sentencing and did not turn to face her victims’ families. She leaned into a microphone placed in front of her in the prisoner’s box andread a short prepared statement.
“I have caused horrendous pain,” she said. “Sorry is much too small a word. I hope that the families can find some peace and healing.”
Despite everything Wettlaufer has revealed, Hazel Parker has tried to minimize her daughter’s culpability — saying, for example, that Wettlaufer “didn’t have to confess and could have taken her secrets to hergrave.”
“What’s been lost in all this,” Parker said, is that Wettlaufer ”tried to do the right thing.”
Now in prison, Wettlaufer no longer has freedom of movement or the ability to explain herself. But it seems her mother is still trying to control her narrative.
Editing: Andre Mayer