Orville Lynn Majors was sentenced to 360 years in prison for …
Updated: Tuesday, 17 Nov 2009, 6:47 PM EST
Published : Monday, 16 Nov 2009, 6:26 PM EST
CLINTON, Ind. (WTHI) - Ten years ago this week, the Wabash Valley was thrown into the national spotlight.
Orville Lynn Majors, of Linton, Ind., was sentenced to 360 years in prison for killing six people. Majors was a nurse at the former Vermillion County hospital and was convicted of injecting patients with a deadly amount of potassium.
It was a trial that would take years to investigate. News 10 first broke the story in April 1995: A quiet, small-town nurse was under suspicion for dozens of deaths at the former Vermillion County hospital.
It was the civil suit filed by Terre Haute attorney Joe Anderson that kick-started the case.
"There were a significant number of families who had suspicions. They just felt like something was wrong," Anderson said.
Families were questioning the hospital, hospital administrators and Majors of wrongful death.
The Indiana State Board of Nursing quickly realized something was terribly wrong. They recognized a staggering pattern of deaths and nurse Majors was immediately suspended.
Deaths in the intensive care unit at Vermillion County Hospital almost quadrupled in the 21-month period Majors worked there. It jumped from an average of 25 or 30 deaths a years, to 100 in 1994. But Majors maintained he was innocent.
"I care about my patients. I care about life. I want to see my patients get better," Majors said.
He was a man with no prior criminal record, yet when he was working, people were dying. The hard part was figuring out how.
It was the medical expertise of a world renowned electrophysiologist in Indianapolis that blew the case open. He was a heart expert who nailed down the murder weapon for investigators.
Dr. Eric Prytowsky was the person who first understood how the deaths occurred. It was a huge turning point in a complicated case.
"[I] went through case by case, EKG by EKG and I must have seen a pattern. It really disturbed me," Prytowsky said.
This pattern found in more than 100 medical charts showed suddenly and unnaturally, the patients' hearts stopped beating.
"I could go years before seeing a pattern like this and, suddenly, I'm seeing a bunch of them in one small hospital. I thought this statistically can't be," Prytowsky said.
Prytowsky proved to investigators and, ultimately, a jury that potassium was Majors' murder weapon. Nurse Majors was injecting his patients with lethal amounts of potassium, which stopped their hearts.
Co-prosecutors Greg Carter and Nina Alexander worked tirelessly on this case.
"The discovery of potassium vials in his garage and van and add to that the eye-witness testimony of the family members who observed injections that were not ordered or charted. We felt the combination of evidence was significant," Carter said.
Both Carter and Alexander were hometown people, who wanted desperately to prove someone was killing their neighbors.
"There was a certain randomness in the natural order of things and it was all gone here. If that man was working, people were dying," Alexander said.
Many people even today are convinced Majors killed as many as 100 people. He was convicted of murdering six.
Majors is currently serving his 360 years sentence in Michigan City, Ind. He has appealed his sentence twice, but the courts upheld his conviction.
It was a trial that drew national attentional and a story 10 years later many still want to forget.
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