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Angels of Death: 6 More Medical Murderers

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In this third installment of Angels of Death, we'll take a look at several serial medical murderers you may have never heard of. They each left a trail of victims behind them and a lot of unanswered questions.

Small Town Nurse

The locals were shocked when nurse Vickie Dawn Jackson was arrested for a series of murders at Nocona General Hospital in Nocona, Texas. After almost a year of exemplary service, Jackson began injecting patients with mivacurium chloride, a muscle relaxant. Over a two-month period, she may have killed twenty patients. The victims included people she had known for years. Her husband's grandfather was a victim. Jackson was fired after a would-be victim survived and complained that she gave him unauthorized medication that made him pass out. An investigation led to ten murder charges. However, the trial was stopped before it began when Jackson pleaded no contest to the charges, and received a life sentence. Jackson still says she is innocent.

The Would-be Hero

250angelo.jpgMost of the medical killers profiled today killed for reasons that will remain a mystery. Richard Angelo had a motive. He wanted to play the hero by rescuing patients in distress, only he caused the distress by injecting victims with the muscle relaxer Pavulon and sometimes couldn't save them. Angelo worked as a night shift nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in New York, where 37 code blue emergencies saw the deaths of 24 patients during his shift. One patient managed to call for help after Angelo injected him with Pavulon and Anectine. An investigation followed, in which the nurse's home was searched and the drugs in question were found. Angelo was eventually charged in four deaths. His defense was that he suffered from multiple personality disorder, but the evidence was the result of polygraph tests, which the judge did not allow. He was convicted and sentenced to 61 years to life.

Murder as Sexual Thrill

200graham_g.jpgGwendolyn Gail Graham was a nurses aide at Alpine Manor Nursing Home in Walker, Michigan. She had a lesbian relationship with her immediate supervisor, Catherine May Wood. The couple practiced erotic asphyxiation, and began killing elderly patients to achieve a sexual thrill. Graham would smother a victim while Wood stood guard, then they would stop for a sexual interlude together. They even bragged about their activities, but coworkers did not believe them. Eventually, Graham put pressure on Wood to commit a murder herself, which led to the couple splitting. Graham left town, and Wood confessed to her ex-husband. A year later, he approached police with the story. The following investigation unearthed eight suspicious deaths, five of which yielded enough evidence to take to trial. Wood testified against Graham in return for a reduced sentence. Graham received six life sentences; Wood drew 20 to 40 years.

Two-month Nursing Spree

100DIAZ.jpgRobert Diaz wanted to be called Dr. Diaz, even though he was a nurse. Diaz held a series of temporary nursing jobs in Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Berardino Counties in California in 1981. At each hospital, an unusual spike in the death rate coincided with his employment. Twelve dead patients exhibited a high level of the heart drug lidocaine. A search of Diaz' home found vials and syringes of lidocaine in concentrations ten times as high as their labels indicated. He was arrested on twelve counts of murder committed in a two-month period. A judge found him guilty of all counts in 1984 and sentenced him to execution. Diaz is still on death row at San Quentin.

Don't Breathe

244Saldivar.jpgEfren Saldivar was a respiratory therapist who confessed to killing around 50 people between 1988 and 1998. Saldivar would inject one of several paralytic medicines into his patients, which caused breathing, or the heart, to stop. His early victims were undetected because he killed only patients who were near death, so the death rate on his shift wasn't noticeably abnormal. Still, the staff at Glendale Adventist Medical Center had suspicions. Co-workers once broke into Saldivar's locker to play a prank and found drugs and syringes he did not have legal access to. They didn't report the find for fear of getting into trouble. After an informant approached the hospital with second-hand knowledge of the staff's suspicions, police were called in to investigate. During his first contact with police, Saldivar, who was connected to a polygraph, started telling stories of how he killed terminal patients out of compassion. Within a few days, he recanted his confessions. Police spend a year and a half looking for evidence in exhumed bodies, and built a murder case around six suspicious deaths in which the bodies had high levels of Pavulon, a derivative of curare that paralyzes the respiratory system. In 2002, Saldivar pleaded guilty to six counts of murder and received life in prison.

Orderly Murder

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Donald Harvey claims to have murdered 87 people during his 17 year career as a hospital orderly. He began working at Marymount Hospital in London, Kentucky when he was eighteen years old. Harvey later confessed to killing at least a dozen people in his ten months there. The first victim, according to Harvey, rubbed feces in his face, angering the orderly so much he strangled the patient. No investigation followed. Harvey used a variety of methods to kill patients: poison, overdoses of medication, strangulation, turning off or misusing equipment, and introducing infections. He was arrested for burglary, served a short time in the army, and  was in a mental ward for a time before working at a couple of Lexington, Kentucky hospitals where he had little opportunity to kill. Harvey later worked at the Cincinnati V.A. Hospital and Drake Memorial Hospital in Cincinnati. At both hospitals, unusual numbers of deaths took place during his shift. He also used poison on his lover, Carl Hoeweler, and both of Hoeweler's parents. Hoeweler's father died as a result. After one suspicious patient death, Harvey's home was searched. Police found various poisons and his incriminating diary. Harvey confessed to dozen of murders in order to avoid the death penalty. He pleaded guilty to 25 counts of murder and received four consecutive life sentences. Harvey earned an additional eight life sentences with a guilty plea in Kentucky. Later, an Ohio court added another three life sentences. There were also sentences for attempted murder and assault. His first scheduled parole hearing will be in 2047.

For stories of more medical mayhem, see Angels of Death: 8 Medical Murderers and Angels of Death: 7 More Medical Murders.

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History
A Brief History of Time
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You may have heard that time is a social construct, but that doesn’t stop it from having consequences in the real world. If you show up to a party 10 minutes before it’s scheduled to start, you’ll likely be the first one there, and if you arrive to an interview 10 minutes late, you likely won’t get the job. But how did humanity agree on when and how to observe certain times of day?

In their new video, the It’s Okay to Be Smart team explains how humans “invented” the modern concept of time. The increments we use to measure time, like seconds, minutes, and hours, come from the ancient civilizations of the Egyptians and the Babylonians. Early clocks, like sundials and water clocks, were pretty crude, so people couldn’t pinpoint a time like noon down to the second even if they wanted to. But as clocks became more accurate, the problem wasn’t being unable to tell time accurately, but deciding which clocks qualified as “accurate” in the first place.

In 1884, President Chester A. Arthur organized the International Meridian Conference with the intention of deciding on a uniform definition of time to be followed around the world. The attendees ended up choosing the meridian running through Greenwich, England as the official Prime Meridian, and all clocks would be measured against the clock in the town’s observatory. Greenwich Mean Time is still used as the standard world time today.

Check out the full story below.

[h/t It’s Okay to Be Smart]

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Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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