When a 78-year-old patient arrived at a Lugo, Italy hospital suffering from a routine illness, doctors were baffled at the elderly patient’s death. Although she had been ill and aging, doctors believed that the woman would make a full recovery. Tests indicated a high level of potassium chloride within the woman’s system, the same drug used in lethal injections. The woman’s death was unusual but it was hardly the first case seen at the hospital. Over the course of two years over 90 deaths were reported under the watch of one nurse, Daniela Poggiali, and at least ten of those deaths were under highly suspicious circumstances.
Already under investigation by the hospital after five deaths occurred within a week during Poggiali’s shifts, she was transferred to day shifts where she could remain under the watchful eye of doctors and other hospital staff. Fellow hospital employees reported that Poggiali was a cruel women, allegedly giving patients laxatives in order to make more work for the nurses following her shift and to cause suffering to the patient.
On the day of 78-year-old Rosa Calderoni’s death, family reported that while visiting the hospital the on-staff nurse, Daniela Poggiali, asked if they could step out of the room for a moment. Ten minutes later they were allowed to return. Rosa’s daughter claims that she saw a glass vial had been attached to her mother’s drip that had not been there previously, and her mother immediately began acting strangely. Rosa’s arm started to twitch and her eyes rolled back in her head. Several minutes later Rosa had passed. Poggaili was there to console the family, and assured them that Rosa had not suffered as her body entered into cardiac arrest.
It was later discovered that two bottles of potassium chloride could not been accounted for. A syringe recovered from a sharps container also tested positive for potassium chloride. Since potassium chloride often leaves the body quickly, it can be difficult to detect as an immediate cause of death. Already suspicious of Poggiali, a medical examiner immediately tested the body and determined that there was enough potassium chloride within the patient’s system to cause her cardiac arrest. Believing that they finally had enough evidence against Poggiali, the Lugo hospital reported her to the police.
A search of Poggiali’s home revealed some unusual photos she had asked another nurse on duty to take. One photo shows Poggiali giving a “thumbs up” next to the corpse of a deceased patient, another shows her mimicking the death expression of an elderly woman who had passed while in Poggiali’s care, while a third photo shows Poggiali laughing and pointing to another corpse. The photos not only existed on Poggiali’s cellphone, but she also posted some of the photos to Facebook. The nurse who took the photos claimed that Poggiali seemed to delight in posing with the dead patients and said that she was frightened and disturbed by Poggiali’s behavior.
In spite of the surmounting evidence against Poggiali, she was allowed to continue working at the hospital until July of 2014. Shockingly, she remained in good standing with the hospital as a dependable nurse who provided excellent care to her patients. She was only dismissed after she had been accused of stealing money from a patient, along with the hospital learning of the morbid Facebook photos. She wouldn’t be formally arrested by police until October of that year.
A probe of hospital records by investigators indicated Poggiali had nearly double the amount of deaths that occurred during her shifts compared to what other nurses had reported. Poggiali claims that the high number of deaths is due to being a “work-a-holic” and often picked up shifts for her coworkers. In addition to the unusually high mortality rate on Poggiali’s shifts, she was also accused of compulsively stealing items such as money, personal products, and medications from her patients.
When Poggiali was arrested, police say that she remained incredibly calm, even as her boyfriend began to cry. Media photos also show Poggiali laughing and smiling as police take her to jail to await trial. Unusual behavior for someone who’s accused of being the most prolific serial killer of all time — superseding Luis Garavito, who was convicted of murdering nearly 142 boys during a seven year period.
The verdict is still out on Poggiali. In January of 2015, she stood before an appeals court judge in order to apply for house arrest while her trial is still pending. She apologized for the photos, claiming that they were in poor taste in hindsight, and blamed the photos on a former colleague. She also says that she is not the serial killer that the media makes her out to be and that she never gave a patient potassium chloride unless prescribed by a doctor. The judge denied her application, stating that she is “a dispenser of death” and “a public danger”.
Prosecutors on the case agree with the judge’s decision. They believe that Poggiali, later coined by media as “The Angel of Death”, delighted in the death of her patients. Although her transfer to day shift made killing patients more of a challenge, she even felt comfortable enough to joke with one doctor that “two bottles of potassium and it would all be resolved”, during a discussion regarding the prognosis of a patient. While Poggiali maintains her innocence, lead investigators say that she is nothing but a cold and calculated killer, who took nothing but pleasure in the suffering and death of others.