Licensed Practical Killers
For the past nineteen years in a row, nurses have been rated the most trusted profession based off a Gallop poll. (John Hopkins Nursing, 2021). The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of nurses and the incredible work they do to provide care to those in need. Not every nurse, however, has contributed to the trusting honorable reputation of the nursing profession. Orville Lynn Majors and Bobby Sue Dudley were two nurses who did not deserve any honor or trust. This is the story of the licensed practical killers.
Orville Lynn Majors
Orville Lynn Majors was born in Kentucky in 1961 and went by his middle name, Lynn. As a teenager, he provided care to his grandmother who was elderly. (Wikipedia, 2021). This experience likely led Lynn to seek a career as a caregiver. Lynn graduated from Nashville Memorial School of Practical Nursing in 1989 (Wikipedia, 2021), and eventually took a job at Vermillion County Hospital in Clinton, Indiana. From what I could find in my research, Mr. Majors was never married and did not have any children.
Lynn was a popular nurse and Dawn Stirek, a former co-worker said “Lynn was an excellent nurse. People liked him. I liked him” (Vermillion County, 2007). He had received very positive evaluations and feedback from patients (Wikipedia, 2021). However, staff at the hospital started noticing a trend.
The mortality rate increased from approximately 26 patients per year to over 100 per year between the years of 1993-1994, when Lynn became employed by the hospital (Wikipedia, 2021). Vermillion County Hospital was a small hospital with just fifty-six beds, so this increased death rate meant that one out of every three patients admitted were dying in the hospital. Most of the patients who died were elderly, some over one-hundred years old. Several followed a similar pattern leading to their death which included an erratic heartbeat followed by respiratory arrest (Wikipedia, 2021).
The staff at the hospital noticed that Lynn was on duty frequently when the deaths occurred. Lynn would later defend this by claiming his large amount of overtime meant he was frequently at the hospital, making it more likely he’d be present during a death (Higgins, 2017). However, one death raised suspicions for nurse manager Dawn Stirek. Stirek was working in the ICU and was called to help in another department. She left her one patient, one-hundred-one-year-old Margaret Mershon, in the care of Lynn Majors. Although doing quite well prior to her leaving the unit, Mrs. Mershon died an hour later. (Bovsun, 2017). This death prompted Dawn to start investigating the death patterns at the hospital.
Dawn found that Lynn was on duty 90% of the time when patients died for unknown reasons (Bovsun, 2017). Additionally, the death rate when Lynn was on duty was one patient every 23 hours, whereas it was one patient per 551 hours when Lynn was not on duty (Bovsun, 2017). Later investigations found that Lynn was on duty when 130 out of the 147 total deaths at the hospital between 1993-1994 occurred (Wikipedia, 2021). The investigation was turned over to the Indiana State Police.
At this point the Indiana Board of Nursing suspended Lynn Major’s license due to him exceeding his scope of practice by administering medications without a doctor’s order or doctor’s presence in the ICU (Wikipedia, 2021). Vermillion County Hospital fired him. Orville Lynn Majors told several news outlets that he was not guilty of any crime and that he worked so much he was bound to be present when the deaths occurred.
After having his license suspended, Lynn opened a pet store and hired a lawyer to defend him (Murderpedia, 2021). “It took five years to prepare the case” said Nina Alexander, one of the prosecutors in this case (Higgins, 2017). Part of the ongoing investigation included the exhumation of fifteen bodies based on claims from now suspicious family members whom lost their loved ones. One of these was the family of Dorothea Hixon, whose daughter claimed that in April of 1994 Lynn Majors gave the patient an injection, and she died just moments later. Dorothea was eighty years old and in the hospital for a routine procedure. (Bovsun, 2017). Dorothea’s daughter would later testify that after giving the injection, Lynn kissed her mother on the forehead and said “It’s all right punkin. Everything is going to be alright now” (Bovsun, 2017).
Investigating these deaths was difficult due to the advanced disease processes in elderly patients, time passed since patients had died, and lack of detectability of certain injectable substances. They suspected that Lynn injected his victims with potassium chloride. Electrophysiologist Erik Prystowsky was asked to review the EKG strips of several patients who died under Lynn’s care. (Wikipedia, 2021). Without getting to much into the nurse lingo here, the EKGs showed widened QRS intervals, meaning slowed patterns of electrical activity in the heart. The expert explained that the patterns seen in many of the deaths could only be caused by a sudden heart attack, blood clot in the lungs, or a potassium overdose (Wikipedia, 2021). The bodies exhumed showed no signs of heart attacks or blood clots in the lungs, leading expert investigators to determine the cause of death to be potassium overdoses. (Wikipedia, 2021)
A former roommate of Lynn Majors recalled empty bottles of potassium chloride and epinephrine found in their previous apartment (Wikipedia, 2021). Investigators later found empty bottles of potassium chloride in Lynn’s home and van, which were traced back to the hospital. (Murderpedia, 2021). Orville Lynn Majors was arrested for seven murders in December of 1997.
During his trial, the statistical evidence uncovered by the nursing supervisor was not allowed because Majors was only being charged for seven murders. (Murderpedia, 2021). However, several witnesses provided testimony that Lynn wasn’t always the nice caring nurse he portrayed. Witnesses testified Lynn often said elderly people “should be gassed” (Higgins, 2017). Multiple sources say he disliked elderly people, especially ones he thought were too needy, whiny, or required too much of his time.
His sister, however, refuted these claims and described a time when Lynn gave mouth to mouth to a fish who jumped out of the tank and he saved the fish’s life (Higgins, 2017). The defense relied on the assumption that the patients’ advanced age and multiple medical conditions caused a natural death. The jury did not believe it though. Although suspected of over eighty deaths, Orville Lynn Majors was convicted in 1999 of six of the seven murders in which he was tried for (Higgins, 2017). He was sentenced to sixty years per murder, for a total of 360 years in the Indiana state prison system.
Lynn appealed his conviction in 2002, citing jury mismanagement and misconduct (Majors V. State, 2002), but the court rejected his appeal. However, Lynn would only serve eighteen years before dying of heart disease on September 24th, 2017, at age fifty-six. (Associated Press, 2017).
The known victims of Lynn Majors include Mary Ann Alderson, Dorothea Hixon, Cecil Smith, Luelle Hopkins, Margaret Hornick, Freddie Wilson, and Derek Maxwell. (Murderpedia, 2021).
Bobbie Sue Dudley
Another nurse, entrusted with the care of the elderly, violated this trust in the worst way. Bobbie Sue Dudley was born in Woodlawn, Illinois in 1952. She grew up in Woodlawn as a shy awkward girl with seven siblings. (Murderpedia, 2021). Four of her brothers suffered with muscular dystrophy. Perhaps this influenced her career choice, and Bobbie became a Registered Nurse in 1976.
Bobbie Sue married Danny Dudley in the 1970’s. Bobbie was devastated to learn that she was infertile and would never have a child of her own. However, she and her husband adopted a boy. The boy later was admitted to the hospital for a drug overdose, and Bobbie’s husband suspected that she had given him tranquilizers. (Murderpedia, 2021). Bobbie had access to tranquilizers as she was a diagnosed schizophrenic. The allegations lead to their divorce and Bobbie lost custody of her son. (Murderpedia, 2021)
After the collapse of her marriage, her mental health deteriorated, and she was hospitalized multiple times. She was hospitalized for fibroid-tumors, pneumonia, a hysterectomy, and a variety of different ailments. (Murderpedia, 2021). Bobbie was clearly not in any state to work as a nurse, caring for vulnerable elderly and ill patients.
However, she found a job at Hillview Manor in Greenville, IL. While at this job, Bobbie’s co-workers described her as very odd. She fainted numerous times while on duty and slashed her own genitals twice while on duty. The second time she cut herself, she required surgery to repair her vaginal tissues at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. As a result of these behaviors, she lost her job at Hillview and her Illinois nursing license was suspended. (Murderpedia, 2021).
In the 1980’s, nursing boards did not communicate with each other or utilize registries like they do today. Bobbie Sue Dudley is one of the reasons those registries were formed. After leaving Hillview, Dudley moved to St. Petersburg, Florida and was able to obtain a nursing license with very little effort and no background check revealing her suspended license or mental health issues in Illinois. (Dziemianowicz, 2020). She took a job at North Horizon Care Center.
On November 24th, 1984 Stella Bradham, 85, sunk into coma that was suspected to be caused by a stroke and died a few days later. (Dziemianowicz, 2020). This wasn’t the first death at North Horizon in November of 1984. Aggie Marsh died November 13th, 1984. (Wikipedia, 2021). She may have been ninety-seven, but her death was unexpected. Only a few days later, Anna Larson was rushed to the hospital from the facility after suffering an insulin overdose. Larson, however, was not a diabetic and should not have been given any insulin. Larson survived the incident. (Murderpedia, 2021).
On November 23rd, 1984, Leathy McKnight died on Dudley’s shift. The same night, a suspicious fire broke out in the facility’s linen closet. Mary Cartwright and Stella Bradham died on Dudley’s shift on November 25th. On November 26th, five more patients died at North Horizon. In addition, police were called when Dudley reported that an intruder had broken into the facility and attacked her. (Murderpedia, 2021). She had stab wounds to her abdomen, but investigators were very suspicious as the facility was secured to prevent dementia patients from leaving. (Dziemianowicz, 2020).
Investigators decided to question Bobbie Sue Dudley about the incident, her stabbing, and the large number of deaths occurring during her shifts at the care center. However, Bobbie became ill and decided to terminate the interview. (Dziemianowicz, 2020). The investigation continued, however, and the puzzle pieces were starting to fit together. North Haven terminated Bobbie’s employment “for the good of the facility” (Murderpedia, 2021).
Investigators were going to have to wait to follow up with Bobbie, however, as she was admitted to a psychiatric facility in Florida shortly after the interview. (Murderpedia, 2021). Bobbie lost her Florida nursing license as a result of the allegations against her and reports on her mental illness. She had attempted to file a workman’s compensation case for the stabbing, but evidence about her schizophrenia and Munchausen’s disease was presented and she lost the case. (Murderpedia, 2021).
While the investigation was continuing and exhumations were being done, Bobbie Sue married Ron Terrell and became Bobbie Sue Terrell. (Murderpedia, 2021). However, shortly after the marriage began, she was hospitalized again for mental illness. The ongoing investigations included a search of Dudley’s home in which a detailed list of the murders including names, dates, and times of death were documented (Dziemianowicz, 2020). The bodies exhumed also showed that some patients were given injections of unknown substances without any injections ordered by the physician and others had fractured hyoid bones indicating strangulation. (Dziemianowicz, 2020). One of those who had been strangled was Stella Bradham.
Bobbie Sue was arrested and charged in 1986 with five counts of murder, although she is suspected of many more. (United Press International, 1986). According to the Miami Herald, Bobbie Sue’s psychiatrist stated that “…she was very upset because there were 13 people who died from overdoses of insulin” (United Press International, 1986). She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and Munchausen’s by proxy, but she was found fit to stand trial. However, she accepted a plea deal in 1988 and was sentenced to sixty-five years in prison for the murders. (Dziemianowicz, 2020).
Bobbie sue died in a Florida prison on August 27th, 2007. However, her death brings little peace to those who lost their loved ones under her care. Stella Bradham’s granddaughter told Oxygen’s Licensed to Kill that her father was terrified of going to a nursing home after what happened to Stella, and she hired twenty-four-hour caregivers for him instead. Former co-workers also described going to work in other fields of nursing in order to escape the trauma.
Bobbie’s known victims include Stella Bradham, Aggie Marsh, Leathy McKnight, and Mary Carter.
Each day, nurses are entrusted with enormous responsibility for the health and safety of those under their care. Nurses are often the primary caregivers in most healthcare settings and have the responsibility for medications. When the trust between patients and caregivers is broken, the results are detrimental to our entire society. Nurses like Lynn and Bobbie are a blemish on the nursing community that I, as a registered nurse myself, am so proud to be a part of. With the integration of state nursing boards and communicative registries, it is much easier to determine a history of misconduct and disciplinary actions in other states. Nurses must also speak up when they suspect something doesn’t seem right as lives may depend on it.
Associated Press (2017) Orville Lynn Majors dies; nurse convicted of multiple murders was 56; News Day; Retrieved at: Orville Lynn Majors dies; nurse convicted of multiple murders was 56 | Newsday
John Hopkins Nursing (2021) Nurses are the “Most Trusted Profession” for 19 Years in a Row; Retrieved at: Nurses are the "Most Trusted Profession" for 19 Years in a Row - Johns Hopkins Nursing Magazine (jhu.edu)
Vermillion County (2007) Youtube; Retrieved at: Vermillion County - YouTube
Bovsun, M. (2017) Sadistic nurse suspected of poisoning more than 100 patients in Ind. Hospital gets 360 years for six murders; NY Daily News; Retrieved at: Sadistic nurse suspected of poisoning more than 100 patients in Ind. hospital gets 360 years for six murders - New York Daily News (nydailynews.com)
Higgins, W. (2017) Angel of Death Orville Lynn Majors: Who was the serial-killer nurse?; IndyStar; Retrieved at: Angel of Death Orville Lynn Majors: Who was the serial killer-nurse? (indystar.com)
Majors V. State (2002) Supreme Court of Indiana; Retrieved at: MAJORS v. STATE | FindLaw
Murderpedia (2021) Orville Lynn Majors; Retrieved at: Orville Majors | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers
Wikipedia (2021) Orville Lynn Majors; Retrieved at: Orville Lynn Majors - Wikipedia
United Press International (1986) Suspected Nurse Had History of Mental Illness; The Orlando Sentinel; Retrieved at: SUSPECTED NURSE HAD HISTORY OF MENTAL ILLNESS - Orlando Sentinel
DZIEMIANOWICZ, J. (2020) ‘Very Lethal’ Florida Nurse Strangled 2 Elderly Patients, Fatally Drugged Others; Retrieved at: Bobbie Sue Dudley Convicted In 4 Nursing Home Murders | Crime News (oxygen.com)
Murdpedia (2021) Bobbie Sue Terrell; Retrieved at: Bobbie Sue Terrell | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers
United Press International (1986) Ex-nurse is Charged in Slayings; Sun Sentinel; Retrieved at: EX-NURSE IS CHARGED IN SLAYINGS - Sun Sentinel (sun-sentinel.com)