There have been killer nurses featured on the podcast, like Jane Toppan and Genene Jones. They are called Angels of Deaths. A third is Kristen Gilbert. She would murder numerous military veterans before calling in a bomb threat at the military hospital. Even now, criminal profilers are studying her to understand why she did what she did, being that she seems to have a normal upbringing without any traumatic experiences. Was she born evil then? A bad seed? Let us explore Kristen Gilbert, and maybe you can figure out why she decided to become a serial killer.
Before Becoming Nurse
On November 15, 1967, in Falls River, Massachusetts, Kristen Heather Strickland was born to Richard Strickland, a US Coast Guard, and Claudia Strickland. Her father, Richard, would leave the US Coast Guard and settle into a career as an Electronics Engineer. Claudia worked as a Substitute Teacher. When Kristen was seven years old, her sister Tara was born. This caused Kristen to start spending more time with her grandmother.
Kristen was known as a pathological liar by her friends and neighbors. Kristen once told people that she was a distant relative of Lizzie Borden, who is known for murdering her father and stepmother with an ax. Lizzie was also from Falls River, so this might be why Kristen used her in her lies. She also lied about her parents. Kristen told some friends that her mother was a drunk who beat her. One friend, Pamela Smethshurt, told a newspaper that people found Kristen strange. She told them about a time that they were watching General Hospital:
“We used to sit and watch `General Hospital. And this sounds freaky and almost made up now. But there was this one character in the show who was this evil nurse. And I remember [Kristen] said: `I like Amy.’ And I said, `Oh, my God! Why would you like Amy?’ And she said: `I just like Amy.”
Ex-boyfriends said she was verbally and physically abusive towards them. Kristen would also threaten to commit suicide. If they did not want to continue the relationship, she would damage their cars and call, heavily breathe on the phone, and hang up.
She was smart and even graduated high school a year and a half earlier than expected and started a Pre-Med program in her state college Bridgewater State College. Kristen also got a job as a home health aide with a nurses association. She was accused of scalding a disabled child with hot water, resulting in 60% of his body being covered in burns. Even after doing this, Kristen was not prosecuted.
She met her future husband Glenn Gilbert in 1986, and by 1987, she had transferred colleges to be near him. A year later, in 1988, Kristen and Glenn got married. Kristen was similar to Katherine Knight, who was featured in a previous podcast episode. They both were emotionally and physically abusive towards the men they were in relationships with, even their husbands. A month after Kristen married Glenn, she almost killed him when she chased him around the house with a knife after an argument. Glenn was able to lock himself in a room and wait it out.
Kristen Becomes a Nurse
Kristen graduated from college and became a nurse. Moreover, on March 6, 1989, she started working at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center (VAMC). In a year, Kristen was featured on the April 1990 copy of the VA Practitioner. It makes you wonder how she could get on the cover when around her; many of her patients were dying. Kristen was at the VAMC for seven years. During the time she was there, half of the 350 deaths at the VMC happened when Kristen was on duty. A doctor started noticing a pattern and told Kristen’s nursing manager Melodie Turner. Like Genene Jones, another killer nurse, nothing was done, so Kristen was able to continue killing. The nurses even jokingly called her an “Angel of Death.” Even then, no one took the joke seriously.
In late 1990, Kristen gave birth to her first son. Kristen would return to the VAMC after maternity leave in Spring 1991. The deaths continued. In 1993, Kristen’s second son was born. By 1995, Kristen’s and Glenn’s marriage started deteriorating, and they were always arguing.
Syringes and Deaths
In the Summer of 1995, Kristen became friendly with a police officer at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center named James Perrault. By the fall, the two were having an affair. We have to remember that Kristen was still married to Glenn Gilbert.
One of the deaths was of 66-year old Stanley Jagodowski. He came into VAMC in late July 1995. Everything seemed fine until Kristen came on duty. A nurse saw Kristen go into Stanley’s room with a syringe. His medication was all pills, so the nurse found that weird.
The nurse then heard Stanley exclaim, “Ow. It hurts. You’re killing me.” A few minutes later, Stanley was going into cardiac arrest and passed away.
Simultaneously, Kristen started cooking more, and Glenn started saying the food was tasting funny. Investigators suspect that she was poisoning her husband. In November 1995, Glenn got sick and had to be rushed to the emergency room. He recovered. Later, Kristen took out two syringes and told Glenn that she would flush his win to draw blood. She is a nurse and his wife, so Glenn was not suspicious. When the syringe went in, Glenn felt cold. He tried to pull away, but she pinned him against the wall with her hip. Glenn passed out. When he came to, Glenn heard Kristen said, “This was not going to work.”
Glenn once again got lucky. James Perrault gave Kristen an ultimatum. It’s either your husband or me. This caused Kristen to ask for a divorce. He would escape with his life.
On December 8, 1995, veteran Henry Hudon came into the VAMC. He had taken 50 pills and drank a 12-pack of beer. When his family was leaving him at the ER to be monitored, his sister remembered Henry screaming, “You cannot leave me here! You can’t leave me in this building! ‘People are dying around here for no reason!” Henry would never leave the hospital.
In February 1996, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center launched an investigation because of the hospital’s deaths. Kristen was not happy about the investigation, and she even told her ex-husband that he better not speak to the investigators.
In July 1996, James Perrault tried to end the relationship, but Kristen begged him not to. He tried again a month later but to no avail.
In September 1996, James told him that he had agreed to speak to investigators. Kristen Gilbert got very upset and told him not to speak to investigators. After that, Kristen started to harass James. On the day he was going to speak to investigators, Kristen tried blocking his car with hers. He said he was going to, and she got in the car and drove off. It did not end there. She started stalking him. Kristen threw eggs at his car, spray-painted the windshield, and keyed the car.
Kristen started calling his house, and when James would pick up, he would hear heavy breathing. This is when someone could press *67 to hide their number. He decided to contact NYNEX, and they could trace seven of those phone calls to Kristen Gilbert. NYNEX was the telephone company bought by Bell Atlantic Corporation on August 14, 1997.
On September 26, 1996, Kristen made a bomb threat when she called the Department of Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center in Leeds, Massachusetts. She used a hand-held voice changer called “Talkgirl Jr.” so that she could mask her voice.
On September 30, Kristen told a neighbor how she found a bomb recipe, and it was so easy to make. That same day, she bought a “Talkboy Jr” similar to the Talkgirl she had bought before. The cashier remembered how Kristen wanted to make sure the batteries worked.
Kristen called James Perrault with the Talkboy Jr. “Officer Perrault, I’ve been watching you, boy.”
On October 1, 1996, a search warrant led police to search Kristen’s apartment. The police seized batteries and the Talkboy Jr. They also found a newspaper article about the bomb threat.
It did not work. She was found guilty and sentenced to 15 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Before calling in the bomb threat, she called her ex-husband using the Talkgirl Jr, and on Glenn’s answering machine, she left the following message:
“I just wanted to say goodbye for the last time. Goodbye.”
Charged with Murders
On March 27, 2001, a judge sentenced Kristen Gilbert to four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole plus 20 years. The four lives were Stanley Jagodowski, Henry Hudon, Kenny Cutting, and Ed Skwira. She tried appealing, but in 2003 she dropped it. Why? The Supreme Court had ruled that in a retrial, prosecutors could pursue the death trial.
Kristen Gilbert was only charged with four deaths, but it is evident that she killed many more. Veterans who had survived the war and post-traumatic stress had to die at the hands of a serial killer. As with others, lives could have been saved if people would have reacted earlier. When that doctor raised his suspicions with the nurse manager, if she would have acted, that would have been a chance. If instead of making fun of the many deaths happening on her watch, the nurses would have acted, then maybe. However, we have to remember that people never think horrid actions like Kristen Gilbert’s can happen around them, so maybe that is why they just laughed it off. She is not like other female killers who had traumatic childhoods, so, interestingly, Kristen became the killer nurse that she became. At least, she is spending the rest of her life in a prison in Texas. Four.