Plenty to Learn From VA Case

Perhaps taking advantage of the craze for true-crime podcasts and forensics documentary series, federal prosecutors in West Virginia have decided to host a conference this month to discuss the methods used to convict a former nursing assistant in the deaths of numerous patients at Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg.

Reta Mays intentionally injected patients with unprescribed insulin. She was sentenced to seven consecutive life terms in prison earlier this year. A federal judge called her “the monster that no one sees coming.”

Except, of course, plenty of people probably did see her coming; and there are questions about why she was in a position to commit her crimes, no one flagged what she was doing, and no one was able to stop her.

At West Virginia University’s law school in Morgantown, attendees will learn about the clinical, forensic, psychiatry and legal prosecution techniques in the criminal case. It will, no doubt, be fascinating.

Meanwhile, veterans and their families still want a clearer idea of how many people dropped the ball in making sure we never got to this point.

What is being done to examine the work culture that provided the opportunity for Mays to kill? Have administrators taken enough responsibility to ensure better communication and accountability? Can they assure worried patients and family members that such a tragedy could not occur again?

While we’re learning all we can about the Mays case, let’s be sure the Veterans Administration has figured out why they didn’t see this particular monster coming; and how to stop the next one.


West Virginia’s fall fire season is underway. While most of us have already noticed a change in the crispness of the air and a leaf fluttering to the ground here and there, the official start of the season brings with it limits on outdoor burning for the rest of the year.

Burning vegetation and other naturally occurring material is limited to the hours of 5 p.m. to 7 a.m., according to the state Division of Forestry. A 10-foot safety area around the fire must be cleared to dirt level. Fires must be attended at all times, and open fires must be 50 feet away from structures. Commercial burning permits from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. are available from local Division of Forestry offices.

This is the time of year for bonfires and clearing brush/leaves from property. Most of us think we have a pretty good handle on being safe in those circumstances, but all it takes is a moment of carelessness to bring disaster. One need only look to states such as California or Colorado to see the devastating toll a wildfire can take.

We get comfortable here in the Mountain State believing such destruction could not take place here, but even one damaged acre is too high a price to pay for not following the rules.

Still, if common decency and civic responsibility is not enough to make you take notice, fall fire season also brings with it the reminder that violation of burning laws can result in a fine of up to $1,000.

Follow the rules and pay attention, folks.

Smokey Bear is right, “Only you can prevent wildfires.”


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