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Harvey Sentenced for Mass Killings

August 19, 1987

CINCINNATI (AP) _ A nurse’s aide given three consecutive life sentences after pleading guilty to 24 murders snuffed out lives ″like someone else might have a compulsion for malted milk or cold beer,″ a prosecutor says.

Donald Harvey, 35, of Middletown was sentenced Tuesday after entering his pleas as part of a plea bargain. He will not be eligible for parole for 60 years.

Harvey’s pleas make him one of the most prolific killers in U.S. history. His victims during the past four years included 21 hospital patients. All were poisoned, injected or suffocated, authorities said.

″He’s no mercy killer, and he’s not insane,″ Hamilton County Prosecutor Arthur Ney Jr. told a courtroom jammed with victims’ families. ″He killed because he liked to kill.″

″This man is sane, competent, but is a compulsive killer. ... He builds up tension in his body, so he kills people,″ Ney said, with ″a compulsion to kill like someone else might have a compulsion for malted milk or cold beer.″ Some relatives expressed bitterness at the sentence.

″I think he deserves worse than the death penalty,″ said Betty Kissell, whose father was poisoned at Drake Memorial Hospital earlier this year, according to authorities.

″I think every family member here today would like to see him injected with arsenic, rat poison, cleaning fluid and everything and die a slow, painful death.″

Harvey stood before Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge William S. Mathews with his attorney, William Whalen. When asked if he had anything to say, the mass murderer replied, ″No, sir.″

He sat quietly during the hearing, and showed no emotion.

Harvey pleaded guilty to 24 counts of aggravated murder, four counts of attempted aggravated murder and one count of felonious assault. He was indicted earlier Tuesday by a special grand jury.

Harvey also was ordered to pay $270,000 in fines plus court costs.

Three of Harvey’s victims were poisoned but survived. Two others died several months after being poisoned, but Ney said authorities could not prove poison caused the deaths.

Harvey claimed he killed more than 50 people, according to recent news reports.

Ney said he could not prove additional slayings because there were no witnesses or bodies, and the poisons were almost impossible to detect in the bodies of all but one victim.

″If I could have found one more body, I would have put him in the chair,″ the prosecutor said.

As part of the plea bargain, Ney agreed not to seek the death penalty in exchange for Harvey’s cooperation with investigators and his guilty pleas.

Harvey claims to have killed at least eight people outside Hamilton County, according to Whalen. Mathews ordered Harvey kept in Hamilton County Justice Center for 30 days while Whalen tries to negotiate pleas with other jurisdictions.

Whalen has not said where the other killings took place, other than that they were at hospital where Harvey worked some time during last 16 years. Harvey has worked at at least two hospitals in Kentucky.

Dr. Emmanual Tanay, a forensic psychiatrist who testified before the grand jury, told The Cincinnati Enquirer that Harvey’s killing compulsion is a character disorder, ″a deformity of one’s personality,″ not mental illness.

Although Whalen said Harvey confessed because he wanted to get the killings off his chest, remorse is not something a compulsive killer feels, Tanay said.

It it is much likelier Harvey was ″acting on good legal advice than a stricken conscience,″ he said.

Whalen said he believes the string of deaths was broken by Harvey’s stint as a morgue attendant at the Veterans Administration hospital ″that seemed to satisfy his need.″

Harvey killed patients with cyanide or arsenic poured into gastric tubes or put into orange juice, water or desserts, Ney said. He repeatedly poisoned roommate Carl Hoeweler in 1986 after arguments, then helped nurse him back to health, Ney said.

Harvey also admitted poisoning Hoeweler’s father, Henry, who died, and mother, Margaret Hoeweler, who survived, Ney said.

Harvey also used a hepatitis serum to infect a friend, Diane Alexander, in January 1984 by putting it into her drink. Ms. Alexander, a beautician who worked for Carl Hoeweler, was hospitalized but survived.

Harvey pleaded guilty to the March aggravated murder of John Powell, 44, a Drake patient who had been comatose since a 1986 motorcycle accident. A coroner’s pathologist who performed an autopsy on Powell smelled cyanide and started the investigation that led authorities to Harvey.

Ney had 10 bodies exhumed and autopsied during the investigation. It was launched after Cincinnati television station WCPO reported June 23 that Drake employees had complained of 23 unusual deaths in the ward where Harvey worked.

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