"Can't you believe me just this one time? I don't want to die here!"
Christine Duquette knew her younger brother wasn't crazy, although he'd seem terrified as he laid in a Ward C bed inside Northampton's Veteran's Affairs.
Growing up, Christine and her brother Henry Hudon heard countless stories from their Air Force father. Hudon Sr. enlisted during WW2 and at twenty-three he was chasing Erwin Rommel—German Field Marshal—the "Desert Fox" across the sands of North Africa.
Their father wasn't crazy, he was just brave, and Christine knew that her baby brother had that same trait; and although she believed Henry was wise in saying, "people are dying around here for no reason," there was nothing much she could do.
Her thoughts became conflicted. This was the Veteran's Affairs after all, one of the nation's oldest and greatest institutions put into place by an even greater man—and his tall hat.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all... to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” President Abraham Lincoln—Second Inaugural Address in forming the Veteran's Affairs.
Henry's mother, Julia Hudon, also believed in her son—like every great mother would—but she saw Henry was "feeling better" from catching the flu, and would be released soon.
Still, Henry was adamant that his death was looming and his reaper had put on a white overcoat; and although Henry knew this without a doubt, he could have never fathomed that his soon-to-be slayer was disguised as an attractive, blonde, female nurse—Kristen Gilbert.
Twisted, not Stupid
Coincidently, Kristen Gilbert—one of the most ruthless medical serial killers (MSKs) in history—was born in the same city of Fall River, Massachusetts, as the infamous Lizzie Borden; the ax murderess famous for giving her mother forty whacks, and her father forty-one.
From an early age, Kristen’s peers found her behaviour concerning. Although she excelled in her grades, leading the Math Club and her honors classes, many perceived her as a manipulator. Kristen was “twisted but not stupid,” as one of her former boyfriends had said. This boyfriend insisted she had keyed his car, dug through his skin with her fingernails, and once even left a suicide note that claimed she had eaten glass.
Even Kristen's own father became distressed by her daughter's behavior. He once told a psychiatrist that her daughter was a "habitual liar," and would often brag that she was a distant cousin to Lizzie Borden—perhaps it's true. It would certainly explain a lot.
After Kristen graduated from Greenfield Community College, she matched with her future husband, Glenn Gilbert, and almost immediately began her very unfaithful marriage. Poor Glenn didn't know—or perhaps, didn't want to believe—that his bride was so promiscuous. Still, the marriage bore two children and seemed to work out just fine, for a little while at least.
Nurse Frank Bertrand said about Kristen, “I don’t know if she had two personalities or something that she could turn on or turn off, much like an actor playing a role.”
Special Agent Bruce Sackman, in his exceptional book Behind the Murder Curtain, described Kristen Gilbert as a “code junkie”.
He found Kristen deliberately put herself around emergency situations where a patient’s life depended on her actions. Kristen Gilbert put her patients into “codes” after spiking the IV bag or directly injecting them with high doses of epinephrine — a heart stimulant. She would then resuscitate her victim so she can take credit for “saving” their life.
Although Kristen was a married mother of two, she still found time to blossom a steamy relationship with a co-worker and Veteran Affair's security employee, James Perrault.
Perrault—a Persian Gulf War Army veteran—was required to respond to hospital codes or if a patient was dying. Soon, Kristen and James started a secret sex affair, unbeknownst to Glenn Gilbert, sitting at home watching the kids.
Perrault testified, “After a few weeks of just flirting back and forth, we were down at the VFW, and after the VFW closed, I walked her out to her vehicle and had a kiss.” 💋
It soon became clear that Kristen Gilbert was purposely coding patients so that she could see her lover for just a few minutes. Newspapers reported that co-workers even caught the two “playing footsie”, while doctors struggled to bring her victim back to life.
"You are the love of my life," Gilbert wrote to Perrault in a secret love letter. "I love you so much, Jim. Let's hope this will be only the first of many happy days together. Love, Kristen."
Another one read, "Never has love touched my heart so gently, moved my soul so powerfully."
Gilbert soon left her husband, after unsuccessfully trying to poison him, and moved to an apartment closer to Perrault.
Stanley J. Jagodowski (66) was a decorated Army veteran that served in the Korean War. Since leaving the service, Jagodowski became overweight, developed diabetes, and spent many of his days in the care of medical professionals.
On August 21, 1995, the VA assigned Jagodowski to Ward C under the care of Kristen Gilbert while he bounced back from a post-operative bowel obstruction operation. Jagodowski was on his way to recovery, better health, and a longer life.
Two licenced nurses documented that at 8:43pm Stanley was in "good spirits" and his vitals were normal.
“Just after leaving, one nurse saw Gilbert go into Jagodowski’s room with a needle and a swab in her hand, under the pretext of ‘flushing’ his intravenous line with ‘saline’ to keep the line open,” Assistant US Attorneys said in court papers.
One nurse overheard Stanley cry out, “Ow! It hurts. You’re killing me!”
Jagodowski’s body launched into cardiac arrest, and he was dead within three hours. Behind the curtains, Kristen Gilbert had pumped her victim with epinephrine—a heart stimulant—just like she did to Henry Hudon and the other veterans in the past.
On March 26, 2001, a jury convicted Kristen Heather Gilbert to life imprisonment for murdering patients while employed at the Northampton VA. Gilbert narrowly avoided the death penalty and is currently serving her sentence at the Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas.
Authors note: As a combat veteran, I too have spent many hours inside the Veteran's Affairs. With that, I can say with great conviction that 99.9% of the staff are the most caring and compassionate people you could ever meet—most of them being veterans themselves.
Kristen Gilbert was an opportunist killer, and targeted veterans only because she worked for the VA system. Still, cases like hers often shine a scrutinizing spotlight on an entire organization, often blinding us from all the wonderful things it can offer. If you are a veteran reading this, don't shy away from the VA because of stories like this one—but also, maybe don't trust every attractive nurse that smiles your way, either.