It’s often the case that when a person begins to travel down a bad path in life, it’s because they’ve been influenced by some bad circumstance in their life. They meet with some kind of adversity and rather than rising above it to live a better life, they are dragged down into the darkness.
But sometimes, there are people who have everything in their favor — a good home, a stable financial situation — and still find themselves on the wrong path. For one woman, that wrong path would end in a terrible place for her and those around her…
Kristen was born in November of 1967, to Richard and Claudia Strickland, in Massachusetts. Her father was an electronics executive and her mother was a homemaker and part-time teacher. When they had a second daughter a few years later, they seemed to be living the stereotypical American Dream.
As Kristen grew up, she developed into a fine young woman. She was smart, pretty, and well liked by her friends. But there was one thing about Kristen that no one liked — she was a chronic liar.
Kristen would tell her friends outlandish stories, such as claiming she was a distant relative to Lizzie Borden. She even managed to convince her college roommates that her mother was an abusive drunk, though there was no truth to that at all. Kristen lied so often and so well, it was hard to know when she was telling the truth.
The Truth Comes Out
Like all liars, Kristen’s chronic deception would eventually become apparent as people would distance themselves from her as quickly as they could. She became known among her friends for stealing things and pretending they were her own. Former boyfriends described her as strange and controlling…
Those boyfriends said that she would fake suicide when she felt like she wasn’t getting enough attention. When she was angry with them she would tamper with the boys’ cars or even physically attack them, hitting them and scratching them with her nails.
She Found Someone
Despite her terrible relationship habits, she still managed to find someone to settle down with. Just around the time she earned her degree as a registered nurse from Greenfield Community College, she married a man named Glenn Gilbert…
Kristen got a job at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Northampton, Massachusetts and the couple bought a home and settled into their new life. It seemed as if Kristen had turned over a new leaf. She was known at work as a thoughtful, highly skilled, and likeable by her coworkers and superiors.
The year after she started working at the VA, Kirsten and Glenn had their first child, a boy. When she came back from her maternity leave, Kristen switched to the night shift, 4pm to midnight. As soon as she did strange things began to happen at the hospital…
High Death Rate
During the night shift, patients began to die at an increased rate, so much so that the death rate of that year was triple that of the previous years. During each incident, Kristen’s skills as a nurse shined, as she remained calm and competent. Though it wasn’t enough to save the patients, it won Kristen the admiration of her coworkers.
Troubles At Home
A little over two years after their first child was born, the Gilberts had a second son, which seemed to mark a decline in their marriage. She also started to develop a close friendship with James Perrault, a new security guard at the VA. The two often went out for drinks with some other coworkers after their shift was over…
Over time, Kristen’s close friendship with Perrault developed into a full-blown affair. Around that time, Glenn began to notice that the food Kristen served him had an odd taste to it. Though he couldn’t prove it Glenn became convinced his wife was trying to poison him, telling friends that she “wanted him dead by Thanksgiving.”
Glenn wasn’t wrong about Kristen wanting him out of her life. When Perrault insisted that she either leave Glenn or end their affair, she immediately told Glenn that their marriage was over. She left him and the kids, got an apartment of her own and was now free to openly pursue her relationship with Perrault…
Kristen was flying high but things weren’t going so well at the hospital. The high rate of patient deaths continued and her coworkers began to whisper about how the deaths always seemed to occur during Kristen’s shift. Also, strangely enough, many of the patients who died were dying of cardiac arrest, even though they had no history of heart problems.
Keep an Eye Out
With suspicions high, some of Kristen’s coworkers thought it would be a good idea to unofficially start monitoring drugs that would cause cardiac arrest. Sure enough, one such drug called epinephrine kept coming up missing…
“If He Dies, Can I Leave?”
Then one day Kristen, anxious to leave work to see Perrault, asked her supervisor if she could leave work early if her patient in ICU died. Her supervisor said yes and just a few hours later, the patient had died from cardiac arrest. The nurses on her Ward finally decided to report their suspicions to their superiors.
It didn’t take long for federal investigators to find the common thread to many of the deaths that were happening at the VA. During their investigation, they uncovered that Kristen had been stealing epinephrine from the hospital stock, then using it to induce heart attacks in her victims so that Perrault would be called to the ICU. She wanted to impress him with her nursing skills and get some time to flirt…
Sensing that investigators were closing in on her, Kristen’s behavior became erratic. She called in a bomb threat to the hospital, using a toy to disguise her voice. She was quickly caught, tried and convicted for this attempt to divert the investigation and served 15 months in prison for the false bomb threat.
Back to Normal
During those months, investigators exhumed several of the bodies of patients who’d died during Kristen’s shift. As her coworkers feared, each had large levels of epinephrine in their systems when they died. Also during those months, the death rate in the hospital dropped to a normal level…
Though she was suspected of being responsible for scores of killings, investigators were eventually able to build a strong case against Kristen for only 4 of the deaths that had happened in the hospital. She was charged with 3 counts of first-degree murder, 1 count of second-degree murder, and 2 counts of attempted murder. Because the VA was considered federal territory, she was facing a possible death sentence.
During the trial, Perrault testified against Kristen, saying that after the charges had been brought, she’d admitted to him that she’d killed one patient with an injection. Her lawyers tried to mount a defense based on extreme emotional distress but they had no success. Kristen Gilbert was found guilty on all charges and she was sentenced to 4 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole, plus 20 years.