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Nurse Accused of Four Killings

Crime: She is charged in deaths of patients at a rural Texas hospital. More charges are possible, authorities say.


HOUSTON — A vocational nurse was charged Wednesday in the capital murders of four patients under her care last year at a rural north Texas hospital.

Vickie Dawn Jackson, 36, is accused of killing her victims by injecting them with a potent muscle-paralyzing drug, mivacurium chloride, which stops a person's breathing. The youngest of the four dead patients was 65.

"The FBI laboratory determined that mivacurium chloride was present in the bodies of the victims that have been included in the indictments," said Montague County Dist. Atty. Tim Cole. "There's no legitimate reason, no medical reason in those cases for that to be found."

As many as 20 people may have been given lethal doses of the drug at tiny Nocona General Hospital.

Nocona, an agriculture and oil town of 3,100, is about 100 miles north of Dallas near the Oklahoma state line.

"It is possible that we will file other counts of capital murder," said Cole, who is awaiting the results of FBI testing on six bodies exhumed last year.

Cole said he hasn't decided whether he will seek the death penalty in what he declined to call mercy killings. "I personally don't find it too merciful to kill people in this way," he said.

The unusually high number of deaths at the 38-bed hospital has been a town mystery for months. Hospital officials became alarmed when they realized that patients died at twice the usual rate from December 2000 to January 2001. Their suspicions deepened when they discovered that four of 10 vials of mivacurium chloride were missing, and that most of the deaths occurred during Jackson's shift.

Jackson had worked at the hospital for a year until February 2001, when the Texas Rangers, Nocona Police and FBI began investigating the case. That summer, 10 bodies were exhumed and grieving families have been waiting for answers.

Jackson stayed in the area, eventually finding a job at a grocery store deli, where she was arrested Wednesday.

She remains in jail on $2-million bond.

Michael R. Graham, the hospital's chief executive, said that while "today's actions will in no way bring peace to the broken families who have lost loved ones," they are "a very healthy first step to finding out what has happened."

"When you have an alleged serial killer working in your hospital, it doesn't matter what policies and procedures you have in place. That person's going to do what they're going to do," Graham said.

One of the victims identified in the indictment was Oma Wyler, who was 95 when she entered Nocona hospital in January 2001.

She suffered from congestive heart failure, but the mother of six had worked for years as a cook at the local high school. She was strong, her family said. Wyler quickly rallied and was preparing to go home a week later when she unexpectedly died.

"We thought at first she had just expired," said Wanda Russell, the eldest of Wyler's daughters.

"Then we started hearing about other sudden deaths and we started looking back. Did someone kill my mother? I was so angry for so long. I felt like Vickie Jackson pushed my mother into heaven. I'm resigned to it now. I would like to hear her motive. You always want to know why."

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