A former Woodstock, Ont., nurse charged with killing eight nursing-home residents and injuring several others has waived her right to a preliminary hearing and will go straight to trial.
Elizabeth Wettlaufer, 49, faces eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of seniors at two long-term care facilities — one in Woodstock and the other in London, Ont. — as well as other charges. Her next court date is April 21.
After murder charges were filed in October, Wettlaufer was charged with four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault. In all, the incidents allegedly occurred between 2007 and 2016, according to the latest records from police.
Officers sifted through nursing home records that show Wettlaufer tended to patients "at or just prior to the time of their deaths," according to police allegations filed in court last fall.
Police say they obtained records from long-term care homes in Woodstock, Paris and London where Wettlaufer worked, often as the nurse in charge on the night shift.
Outside the courthouse, family members and friends of the former nurse's alleged victims cheered news that the trial will be held much sooner.
"Even if it's a little step, it's a big step," said Susan Horvath, whose 75-year-old father Arpad died at the Meadow Park Long Term Care facility in London.
Horvath described court documents that allege Wettlaufer targeted her dad three times before he died as "horrible."
"I can only feel it as a daughter, the pain the fear," she said. "Nobody could help him, he was so sick."
Family, friends offer each other support
Those who lost loved ones at the nursing homes are relying on each other for strength and support, according to Laura Jackson, who was a close friend of alleged victim Maurice Granat.
She added anything that will speed up the legal process is welcome.
"We're very anxious to have this heard. We're very anxious to see justice served," Jackson said. "This woman took loved ones from us and that's not right."
Jackson joined Horvath in expressing concern about Wettlaufer's troubled disciplinary record, revealed in the police filings, that showed she had been suspended four times for "medication-related errors" before she was fired from Caressant Care in Woodstock in March 2014.
"She should have been held accountable the first time she was caught giving someone the wrong medication or too much medication," Jackson said.
Change of venue for trial possible
Wettlaufer's lawyer, Brad Burgess, declined to speak about how his client was doing, but said he will be meeting with the Crown and a case-management judge after the indictment is filed at the next court appearance.
There's no word yet on whether or not the trial will be carried out in front of a judge or jury, or if it will happen in Woodstock.
"Given the media attention surrounding the case, there will almost certainly be a change of venue application," said Burgess.