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Orville Lynn MAJORS

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Poisoner - Nurse - He hated elderly people and he believed that they "should be gassed"
Number of victims: 6 +
Date of murders: 1994 - 1995
Date of arrest: December 29, 1997
Date of birth: 1941
Victims profile: Mary Ann Alderson, 69; Dorothea Hixon, 80; Cecil Smith, 74; Luella Hopkins, 89; Margaret Hornick, 79; Freddie Wilson, 56; and Derek Maxwell, Sr., 64 (patients)
Method of murder: Poisoning (lethal doses of potassium chloride and epinephrine)
LocationClinton, Indiana, USA
Status: Sentenced to 360 years in prison on November 13, 1999
 
 
 
 
 
 
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affidavit

 
 
 
 
 
 

Orville Lynn Majors (born 24 April 1961) is a former licensed practical nurse from Clinton, Indiana who was convicted of murdering his patients.

Though he was only tried for six murders, he is believed to have committed as many as 130 between 1993 and 1995, the period of time for which he was employed by the hospital where the deaths occurred, and for which he was investigated.

It was reported that he murdered patients who were demanding, whiny, or disproportionately added to his work load.

Suspicion

Suspicion first developed when a large number of deaths began occurring at Vermillion County Hospital, where Majors worked. Prior to the time when Majors began employment at the hospital, an average of around 26 patients died annually.

After Majors started working at the facility, however, this rate skyrocketed to more than 100 per year, with nearly one out of every three patients admitted to the hospital dying.

Suspicion in reference to the large number of deaths landed on Majors in part because of his behaviors and attitudes, and a supervisory study that determined that nearly twice as many patients died when Majors was on duty than with any other nurses.

Additionally, Majors was the only nurse present at the deaths of seven patients. He was believed to be injecting potassium chloride as his murder weapon. The license of Majors to practice nursing was suspended in 1995, leading to termination of his employment, and the death rate at the hospital dropped to prior levels.

Prosecution and trial

After the state of Indiana launched a criminal investigation, Majors was arrested in December 1997. A total of 79 witnesses were called to the stand at his trial. Some of the witnesses testified that he hated elderly people, and that he believed that they "should be gassed".

A judge ruled that the supervisory study that showed the number of deaths rose during the duration of Majors' employment at the hospital was inadmissible as evidence because Majors was only being tried for six murders. However, other evidence that was admissible included witnesses who heard Majors refer to elderly patients as "a waste" and by various derogatory terms. Additionally, some of the deadly substances that were allegedly used in the murders were found at his house.

In October 1999, Majors was found guilty of murdering six patients, and was sentenced to 360 years in prison.

Wikipedia.org

 
 

Orville Lynn Majors

INDIANAPOLIS (March 2, 2000) -- Convicted murderer Orville Lynn Majors' bid for a new trial suffered a setback Wednesday when the judge in the case rejected Majors' claims of juror misconduct.

Clay Circuit Judge Ernest Yelton said he found no evidence of alcohol misuse by jurors, as claimed in a defense motion for Majors, a former nurse convicted of killing six hospital patients in 1994 and 1995 through heart-stopping injections.

Yelton also rejected claims that jurors were subjected to improper influence by law enforcement officers during the six-week trial.

The defense had cited statements made by one of the jurors who voted to convict Majors. Ronda Baldwin said she was particularly bothered by social gatherings for the jurors at the home of the Clay County sheriff.

The two outings included free alcohol and were attended by some members of the State Police, the primary agency that investigated Majors. Baldwin said the gatherings made her feel uncomfortable.

But Yelton said in his ruling that none of the officers who attended the outings had any part in the investigation.

And -- in rejecting the argument that Majors did not receive a fair trial -- Yelton repeatedly questioned Baldwin's credibility.

"She focuses on an innocent snippet of fact and then proceeds to weave it into a negative inference," the judge wrote.

But Baldwin told The Indianapolis Star on Wednesday that she believed then -- and does now -- that some of the incidents that transpired during the trial were "out of place."

She said she puts herself in the position of the defendant, on trial for his life.

"This wasn't to hurt anybody or cause anybody any pain," she said of her charges.

"I was telling the truth, what I experienced."

Yelton, though, defended the right of jurors to reasonable diversions when court is adjourned for the day. He noted that jurors in the Majors case spent most of the trial away from their families in Miami County. Jurors were tasked with digesting the testimony of 77 witnesses, plus thousands of pages of evidence.

Yelton wrote that far from being subjected "to the security of unemotional British Beefeater guards," they deserved consideration.

Yelton said he approved the two get-togethers to lessen the stress.

And he said that after some jurors requested that there be beer there, he bought them some with his own money.

Yelton gave no credence to Baldwin's attempt to portray fellow juror Beverly Chapman as drunk after one court session at the end of the trial. Wrote Yelton, "None of the other . . . jurors described her as over-indulgent."

No one alleges jurors drank at the courthouse. And Yelton said there is no credible evidence any juror drank to intoxication during their off-hours.

All 11 other jurors have filed sworn statements denying excessive drinking. They also denied seeing any juror drunk.

Among the key defense allegations was that some jurors drank after deliberations had begun Oct. 14.

For example, Baldwin claimed juror James Christensen said he drank 11 beers one night at the hotel where the jurors stayed. In fact, Christensen said only that he felt like drinking 11 beers, Yelton wrote. Christensen said he drank no alcohol once deliberations began.

Yelton did note one juror who drank alcohol after the case went to the jury: Baldwin.

Yelton said she admitted drinking two beers at the hotel.

For that the judge did not fault her.

"Perhaps other jurors could obtain replenishing sleep by prayer and meditation. Others may exercise before retiring," Yelton wrote, adding that if Baldwin required two beers to help her sleep, "then so be it."

But on point after point of her allegations, Yelton found Baldwin not credible.

For example, there was Baldwin's understanding that the jury foreman's wife was a novelist who planned to write a book about the trial.

While the wife is an author, Yelton said, she never planned to write about the trial.

Yelton also denied Baldwin's assertion that jurors improperly talked about the case during the trial.

Yelton conceded there probably were comments made in the jury room or at the hotel about attorneys on both sides.

But he said alleged comments about defense attorney I. Marshall Pinkus' "propensity to sweat" -- Yelton noted the courtroom was warm -- or conjecture about whether Deputy Prosecutor Nina Alexander's hair bun was real "hardly qualify as discussions about the case."

Gregory Lewis, a deputy state public defender now handling Majors' case, declined comment except to say the Majors' verdict will be appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court.

Majors was convicted in October of killing six patients at the former Vermillion County Hospital in Clinton, Ind.

In November, Yelton sentenced Majors to 360 years in prison.

Judge Ernest Yelton said there is no credible evidence any juror drank to excess during the Majors trial.

 
 

Majors sentenced to 360 years in prison for patients' deaths

Bryan Robinson - CourtTV.com

November 15, 1999

BRAZIL, Ind. (Court TV) Convicted of the murders of six patients and suspected in over 100 other deaths, former nurse Orville Lynn Majors will spend the rest of his life in prison.

An Indiana judge Monday sentenced Majors to 360 years in prison for killing six patients who died while in his care at Vermillion County Hospital.

Judge Ernest Yelton condemned Majors for the diabolical nature of the killings committed while he worked at Vermillion between 1993 and 1995. He imposed six 60-year sentences to be served consecutively. Majors would have to serve at least 180 years before being eligible for early release.

"It is the judgment of this court that the maximum penalty is the minimally reasonable sentence in this case," Yelton said.

Last month, an Indiana jury found Majors guilty of murder. Majors was on trial for killing seven patients, but jurors were unable to reach a verdict on the seventh patient.

Majors continues to maintain his innocence, and his lawyers are planning to appeal his conviction. Majors was accused of giving the following patients lethal doses of potassium chloride and epinephrine: Mary Ann Alderson, 69; Dorothea Hixon, 80; Cecil Smith, 74; Luella Hopkins, 89; Margaret Hornick, 79; Freddie Wilson, 56; and Derek Maxwell, Sr., 64. While jurors were able to reach a decision in six of the cases, jurors were hopelessly deadlocked in Smith's case and Special Judge Ernest Yelton declared a mistrial on that charge.

During the six-week trial, Majors' defense attempted to cast reasonable doubt on the prosecution's case. Majors' lawyer, I. Marshall Pinkus called the patients' family physicians, who all testified that the alleged victims suffered from serious, preexisting illnesses at the time of their deaths and likely died from those diseases or natural causes.

These physicians, Pinkus argued, knew the seven patients the best and gave jurors a detailed history of the health of each alleged victim. Through the doctors' testimony, Pinkus was able to show jurors how Dorothea Hixon had been hospitalized on 20 different occasions for congestive heart failure in the two years leading up to her death; that Mary Ann Alderson had long suffered from chronic lung disease; that Derek Maxwell, Sr. was a diabetes patient who did not always follow his doctor's advice.

Pinkus also suggested that police unfairly focused on Majors and not other doctors and nurses who had contact with the patients. He had the lead investigator in the case, Detective Frank Turchi, admit on the stand that he performed a background check on Majors but not the defendant's colleagues. Turchi also admitted that his investigators requested blood and fingerprint samples only from Majors, but not from other people who came in contact with the patients.

The defense also was helped by a pretrial ruling that restricted the prosecution's use of an incriminating report that linked Majors to the deaths. An independent report by one of Majors' former nursing supervisors, Dawn Stirek, concluded that most of the patients died suddenly and unexpectedly and that patients were 42.96 times more likely to die during Majors' shift.

Before Majors, a one-time licensed practical nurse, joined Vermillion County Hospital in 1993, only 26 people died per year in the intensive care unit. But after his arrival, the death rate skyrocketed, reaching 101 in 1994. In just six months, between July and December 1994, 67 people died; 63 of those people died during Majors' shift. In Majors' 22-month tenure at Vermillion, 147 patients died in the ICU; 121 died during hours worked by Majors. After Majors' nursing license was suspended and he left the hospital, Vermillion's death rate went back to normal.

Before and during the trial, Judge Yelton restricted the prosecution's use of the study, siding with defense attorneys who claimed it would unfairly implicate Majors in the alleged murders of patients other than the seven victims. Judge Yelton ruled that prosecutors could not refer to specific statistics in the study but could mention it very generally.

Ultimately, the study did not have an impact on the outcome of the case. Prosecutors presented compelling evidence that suggested Majors' presence during these patients' deaths was more than a coincidence. Three of the patients' relatives saw their loved ones die almost immediately after Majors gave them a shot.

The consistent pattern of the patient's deaths also helped the prosecution's case. State medical examiners who exhumed and performed autopsies on the bodies told jurors that most of the patients experienced a sudden rise in their blood pressure before their hearts suddenly stopped. This, state medical experts believed, was consistent with excessive amounts of potassium and epinephrine being injected directly into an IV line.

In addition, investigators told jurors that they had recovered potassium vials and syringes in Majors' former residence and in a vehicle driven by the defendant.

The prosecution also cast doubt on the motives of hospital physicians who came to Majors' defense. When Drs. Joel Elias and John Albrecht, both of whom treated four of the deceased patients, maintained they had no reason to suspect Majors of any wrongdoing, prosecutor Nina Alexander pointed out that the doctors were the subject of a negligence suit filed by several patients' families. Since Majors' arrest in 1997, 65 families have filed suit against Vermillion County Hospital and several officials claiming that doctors were negligent in their supervision of Majors. As a licensed nurse, Majors was not legally authorized to give unsupervised injections. Majors' criminal acquittal, Alexander suggested, would help the doctors' pending cases.

Majors himself chose not to testify at trial, but his alleged words still convicted him. A former roommate, Andy Harris, told jurors that Majors often said that old people "should be gassed." Another acquaintance, Donald Miller, testified that in 1996 Majors admitted using potassium chloride to kill patients. However, the defense noted, Miller never told police about Majors' alleged confession until they approached the witness.

 
 

Killer Nurse Gets 360 Years

Gave Lethal Injections to Six Patients

Nov. 15, 1999

BRAZIL, Ind. (AP) -- A judge today sentenced former nurse Orville Lynn Majors to 360 years in prison for killing six elderly patients under his care with lethal injections.

Judge Ernest Yelton condemned Majors for the diabolical nature of the crime, committed in a hospital where the six victims had gone for treatment of various illnesses.

"It is the judgment of this court that the maximum penalty is the minimally reasonable sentence in this case," Yelton said, staring at Majors.

"At long last, may the souls of Mary Ann Alderson, Dorothea Dixon, Luella Hopkins, Freddie Dale Wilson, Derek Maxwell and Cecil Smith rest in peace," Yelton said.

Majors, 38, was convicted Oct. 17 of killing the six while they were patients at Vermillion County Hospital in Clinton in the mid 1990s.

He originally was charged with seven deaths, but jurors could not reach a decision on the seventh patient.

Majors sat a few feet from the witness stand, where three of the victims' relatives made emotional pleas for the longest possible sentence.

"Mr. Majors, if you don't want the fruit of sin, then stay out of the devil's orchard," said Maxwell's wife, Kathryn.

Defense attorney Carolyn Rader offered no evidence that might have lessened the sentence, saying she did not believe it would make a difference. She left immediately after the hearing without speaking to reporters.

Majors still maintains his innocence, and his lawyers are appealing the verdict.

Drugs found in home, van

The patients died over a 13-month span from 1993 to 1995. Majors had contended they died of the ailments that put them in the hospital.

Prosecutors said the deaths were consistent with injections of potassium chloride, epinephrine or both. Police found containers of those drugs at Majors' house and in his van.

With six murder convictions to his name, Majors will be the most prolific killer in the state's prison system.

 
 

Majors convicted of six of seven counts of murder in patients' deaths

Bryan Robinson - CourtTV.com

October 18, 1999

BRAZIL, Ind. (Court TV) After more than 40 hours of deliberations over three-and-half days, an Indiana jury Sunday found Orville Lynn Majors guilty of murder in six of the seven patients he was accused of killing. Jurors were unable to reach a verdict on the seventh patient.

Once a licensed practical nurse, Majors was on trial for killing seven patients who died while in his care when he worked at Vermillion County Hospital between 1993 and 1995. Majors was accused of giving the following patients lethal doses of potassium chloride and epinephrine: Mary Ann Alderson, 69; Dorothea Hixon, 80; Cecil Smith, 74; Luella Hopkins, 89; Margaret Hornick, 79; Freddie Wilson, 56; and Derek Maxwell, Sr., 64. While jurors were able to reach a decision in six of the cases, jurors were hopelessly deadlocked in Smith's case and Special Judge Ernest Yelton declared a mistrial on that charge.

Majors reportedly showed no emotion as the verdicts were read. While relatives of the victims hugged and praised the jury's decision, Majors' sister, Debbie McClelland, wandered around the courtroom afterwards, saying "They're wrong. ... Lynn never killed anybody."

Majors' attorney, I. Marshall Pinkus, vowed to appeal each conviction. Majors could face up to 65 years in prison on each count. His sentencing is scheduled for November 15.

During the six-week trial, Majors' defense attempted to cast reasonable doubt on the prosecution's case. Pinkus called the patients' family physicians, who all testified that the alleged victims suffered from serious, preexisting illnesses at the time of their deaths and likely died from those diseases or natural causes.

These physicians, Pinkus argued, knew the seven patients the best and gave jurors a detailed history of the health of each alleged victim. Through the doctors' testimony, Pinkus was able to show jurors how Dorothea Hixon had been hospitalized on 20 different occasions for congestive heart failure in the two years leading up to her death; that Mary Ann Alderson had long suffered from chronic lung disease; that Derek Maxwell, Sr. was a diabetes patient who did not always follow his doctor's advice.

Pinkus also suggested that police unfairly focused on Majors and not other doctors and nurses who had contact with the patients. He had the lead investigator in the case, Detective Frank Turchi, admit on the stand that he performed a background check on Majors but not the defendant's colleagues. Turchi also admitted that his investigators requested blood and fingerprint samples only from Majors, but not from other people who came in contact with the patients.

The defense also was helped by a pretrial ruling that restricted the prosecution's use of an incriminating report that linked Majors to the deaths. An independent report by one of Majors' former nursing supervisors, Dawn Stirek, concluded that most of the patients died suddenly and unexpectedly and that patients were 42.96 times more likely to die during Majors' shift.

Before Majors, a one-time licensed practical nurse, joined Vermillion County Hospital in 1993, only 26 people died per year in the intensive care unit. But after his arrival, the death rate skyrocketed, reaching 101 in 1994. In just six months, between July and December 1994, 67 people died; 63 of those people died during Majors' shift. In Majors' 22-month tenure at Vermillion, 147 patients died in the ICU; 121 died during hours worked by Majors. After Majors' nursing license was suspended and he left the hospital, Vermillion's death rate went back to normal.

Before and during the trial, Judge Yelton restricted the prosecution's use of the study, siding with defense attorneys who claimed it would unfairly implicate Majors in the alleged murders of patients other than the seven victims. Judge Yelton ruled that prosecutors could not refer to specific statistics in the study but could mention it very generally.

Ultimately, the report did not have a role in jurors' decision. The jury sided with prosecutors, who presented compelling evidence that suggested Majors' presence during these patients' deaths was more than a coincidence. Three of the patients' relatives saw their loved ones die almost immediately after Majors gave them a shot.

The consistent pattern of the patient's deaths also helped the prosecution's case. State medical examiners who exhumed and performed autopsies on the bodies told jurors that most of the patients experienced a sudden rise in their blood pressure before their hearts suddenly stopped. This, state medical experts believed, was consistent with excessive amounts of potassium and epinephrine being injected directly into an IV line.

In addition, investigators told jurors that they had recovered potassium vials and syringes in Majors' former residence and in a vehicle driven by the defendant.

The prosecution also cast doubt on the motives of hospital physicians who came to Majors' defense. When Drs. Joel Elias and John Albrecht, both of whom treated four of the deceased patients, maintained they had no reason to suspect Majors of any wrongdoing, prosecutor Nina Alexander pointed out that the doctors were the subject of a negligence suit filed by several patients' families. Since Majors' arrest in 1997, 65 families have filed suit against Vermillion County Hospital and several officials claiming that doctors were negligent in their supervision of Majors. As a licensed nurse, Majors was not legally authorized to give unsupervised injections. Majors' criminal acquittal, Alexander suggested, would help the doctors' pending cases.

Majors himself chose not to testify at trial, but his alleged words still convicted him. A former roommate, Andy Harris, told jurors that Majors often said that old people "should be gassed." Another acquaintance, Donald Miller, testified that in 1996 Majors admitted using potassium chloride to kill patients. However, the defense noted, Miller never told police about Majors' alleged confession until they approached the witness.

Jurors left the courtroom without commenting on the verdict. Paula Holdaway, daughter of victim Dorothea Hixon, felt vindicated and said, "Mother is now at peace."

 
 

A former nurse has been convicted of the murder of six of his patients in the United States.

October 18, 1999

Orville Lynn Majors poisoned his victims over a 13-month period at the Vermillion county hospital in Clinton, Indiana.

Jurors could not reach a verdict on a seventh count of murder.

Majors could now face life in prison.

Records show that he was linked to more than 100 deaths at the hospital.

Drugs discovered

Suspicions were first raised four years ago when a nursing supervisor noticed a steep rise in the death rate at the intensive care unit where Orville Lynn Majors worked.

The 38-year-old argued that the patients had died from natural causes, but the police said the deaths were the result of poisoning from injections of potassium chloride, epinephrine, or both.

Majors was present when all six patients died and often was alone in their company.

Containers of the drugs were discovered at his home and in his van.

During the five week trial, the jurors were prevented from seeing crucial hosptial records - they linked Majors to the deaths of as many as 130 people. 

 
 

Nurse's Hospital Murder Trial Begins

August 30, 1999

CLINTON, Indiana (AP) -- On a chilly September dawn in 1995, police dug Russell Firestone Sr.'s body out of a rural cemetery.

The exhumation was part of an investigation into more than 100 suspicious deaths at Clinton's tiny hospital, where some nurses and doctors suspected a male nurse was killing patients.

Over the next four years, 14 more bodies were exhumed and the nurse, 37-year-old Orville Lynn Majors Jr., was charged with seven murders at Vermillion County Hospital. Majors is scheduled to go on trial today.

Russell Firestone Jr. hopes to find out what happened to his 73-year-old father -- even though the elder Firestone wasn't among the seven Majors is charged with killing.

'I want answers'

"I want some answers," said Firestone, a Clinton factory worker who told police a male nurse jabbed a syringe into his father's chest on Dec. 12, 1994, just moments before his death.

Prosecutors suspect Majors in dozens of patients' deaths, but they whittled the charges to the seven cases they believe exhibit the strongest evidence that Majors gave his patients unauthorized and lethal injections.

Majors says he's innocent of all charges -- official or implied. His lawyers say there is no evidence that any patients were murdered.

In 1994, the number of deaths skyrocketed at the 56-bed hospital, especially in the intensive care unit where Majors worked primarily.

Some days, every ICU patient died

In the four-bed ICU, 120 people died in 1994. Court records show that on some days Majors worked, every ICU patient died. But in each of the previous four years, no more than 31 ICU patients died.

A consultant who studied patient charts and nurses' time cards found patients were 43 times more likely to die when Majors was on duty.

Clay Circuit Court Judge Ernest Yelton barred prosecutors from using such data at trial, saying the state should stick to specific evidence of the seven murders.

Assistant prosecutor Nina Alexander said the state can prove its case without the statistical studies, although prosecutors haven't said what evidence they have beyond what's in the public case file.

Lethal injections alleged

In court documents, some relatives say they saw Majors give their loved ones shots before they died. And a team of doctors assembled by the Indiana State Police to review medical charts will testify the seven deaths are consistent with patients being injected with potassium chloride or epinephrine.

Police say vials containing traces of those drugs and syringes, which were found at Majors' home and in his van, were traced to shipments from medical suppliers to Vermillion County Hospital.

I. Marshall Pinkus, the court-appointed attorney who leads Majors' defense, says there is no evidence his client did anything wrong.

Pinkus says jurors won't find it unusual that nurses give patients shots or that sick, elderly patients die in intensive care units. Some patients and co-workers at the hospital considered Majors a hardworking and sympathetic nurse, Pinkus said.

Doctor believes Majors is innocent

John Albrect, the doctor in charge of the intensive care unit, has testified twice that he believes Majors is innocent.

Pinkus said state police were quick to follow rumors spurred by hospital workers who had jumped to the conclusion that Majors was killing patients because he happened to be on duty when they died.

Pinkus said prosecutors had rushed to judgment without pursuing other theories and suspects.

Close to 300 witnesses have been assembled for the case. The judge predicts it could take three months to present evidence to the 12 jurors and six alternates.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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