woman being arrested with handcuffs on

A nurse with a spotty work history that includes allegations of “abuse” has been charged in the killings of two nursing home residents and the attempted murder of a third, the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office said Thursday.

Attorney General Michelle Henry announced a stack of charges against registered nurse Heather Pressdee, who worked at Quality Life Services in Chicora, a skilled nursing facility about an hour north of Pittsburgh.

Pressdee is accused of administering lethal doses of unnecessary medication that resulted in the death of two patients and the hospitalization of a third, all in 2022. The charges include two counts of homicide, one count of attempted murder, a count of aggravated assault, three counts of neglect of a care-dependent person, and three counts of reckless endangerment.

Possible motive

Charging documents shared with the media Thursday outlined an extensive investigation into the reason for the men’s hypoglycemia, which sent each to Butler Memorial Hospital.

Those documents show Pressdee confessed when confronted this week with medical records showing the men had been given insulin they did not need. For two of the three victims, she allegedly told law enforcement officials that she “felt bad for their quality of life” and “had hoped they would just slip into a coma and pass away.”

Although the two men died on different dates, they were initially hospitalized for critically low blood sugar levels within 30 minutes of each  other in November 2022. A facility nurse practitioner said she had never witnessed such a situation before. The men had been suite mates at the facility.

One of those two victims also had been hospitalized months before his death for low blood sugar, and a doctor determined that he had been given insulin in error or intentionally.

In the other case dating to August, Pressdee allegedly told investigators the man was “having a very difficult time” in COVID isolation and asked her to “kill him.” The 73-year-old survived a seizure, and after an 8-day hospital stay, moved to another facility.

Mary Susan Tack-Yurek, chief quality officer for Quality Life Services said in an email to McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Thursday afternoon that members of the organization “are sickened” by Pressdee’s alleged actions.

“As a family owned organization that prides itself on providing safe and compassionate care, Quality Life Services is shocked and devastated to learn that the charges brought against Ms. Pressdee by the Attorney General’s Office include alleged illegal activity that occurred at our QLS – Chicora facility. We will continue to fully cooperate with the Attorney General’s Office as needed in the investigation and prosecution of this matter. We can assure our community, our residents, our families and our staff that all residents of Quality Life Services – Chicora are safe and are receiving appropriate care and services,” she wrote.

Quality Life Services operates 10 skilled nursing facilities in Pennsylvania.

No attorney was listed for Pressdee as of Thursday afternoon.

The investigation is ongoing. A call seeking additional information from the attorney general’s office was not returned by deadline Thursday. It was unclear if investigators were looking into any other possible deaths or druggings.

Checkered past

Investigators reported that Pressdee was disciplined “for abusive behavior toward patients or staff” at several facilities, leading her to quit or be fired from 11 facilities since 2018.

Pressdee arrived at the building in Chicora in May of 2022, when she was hired as the assistant director of nursing. She later also served as the interim director of nursing, with both positions allowing her access to the facility’s medication cart.

“The allegations in this case outline the callous abuse of incredibly vulnerable patients by a professional nurse,” Henry said in a statement announcing the charges. “As the charges indicate, these were deliberate and intentional acts perpetrated by a care-giver who was trusted to care for these victims.”

Pressdee was arraigned on the charges Wednesday night and is being held at Butler County Prison without bail. A preliminary hearing was moved from May 30 to June 6, according to Pennsylvania court records.