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Document Shows Past of VA Nurse

November 27, 1998

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ When Nancy Cutting received a call almost three years ago from a nurse informing her that her husband had died at a veterans hospital, she was so overcome with grief.

Now, she’s overcome with anger, having come to believe that the nurse who called that day is the same woman authorities have charged with killing three patients at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital _ including Cutting’s husband _ and trying to kill two others.

Kristen Gilbert was charged with three counts of murder in a federal grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday. She was also charged with attempted murder, retaliating against a federal witness, and obstructing justice. A hearing is set for Dec. 7.

Prosecutors said she used epinephrine, a drug that can overstimulate the heart, on all five patients. If convicted, she could face the death penalty.

``The death penalty is there _ I think she should get it,″ Cutting said Thursday.

Federal prosecutors have accused Kristen Gilbert of murdering Kenneth Cutting, a 41-year-old invalid, after asking a supervisor if she could leave early if he died.

``She called me _ Kristen Gilbert. She called me herself and said he died, and I guess it was right after that that she took off,″ Cutting told the Boston Herald.

Kenneth Cutting had no known heart problems when he died suddenly on Feb. 2, 1996, after going into cardiac arrest at the hospital in Northampton.

``I had thought by the grace of God it was his time to go,″ Nancy Cutting told the Springfield Union-News. ``To find out it was a whole different turn was hard.″

According to court records, Gilbert, 31, of Setauket, N.Y., has suffered psychiatric episodes _ including making violent threats _ since she was a teen-ager.

As a student at Bridgewater State College in 1984, Gilbert once left an ex-boyfriend a note saying she had eaten glass, according to an affidavit by Steven Plante, a veteran’s affairs investigator.

According to the document, Gilbert was unharmed and had been lying about the suicide attempt.

The affidavit, filed in 1996 in connection with Gilbert’s trial for phoning in a bomb threat to the Northampton VA Medical Center, offers a glimpse into the past of a woman about whom little is known.

Bridgewater State College officials ordered Gilbert to receive psychiatric treatment after the fake suicide attempt, the document said. She went on to get her nursing degree at Greenfield Community College in 1988.

The affidavit quoted an ex-boyfriend of Gilbert’s as saying she was mentally unstable and he would not be surprised if she ``killed or abused somebody.″

Another former boyfriend of Gilbert’s, hospital police officer James Perrault, had his car damaged after he drove to an interview with federal agents investigating Gilbert.

Witnesses also reported getting phone calls from Gilbert accusing them of ``stabbing her in the back,″ the affidavit said.

Gilbert left the hospital in 1996 amid a hospital probe into a cluster of suspicious patient deaths that occurred during her shift. That fall, she checked herself into area psychiatric hospitals seven times, staying between one and 10 days each time.

Authorities have refused to suggest any specific motive for the killings.

Gilbert, who is divorced and does not have custody of her two children, was sentenced to 15 months in prison and currently is jailed in Connecticut.

Her attorney, Harry Miles, did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday.

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