The trial of Dr. William Husel is being livestreamed each day on NBC4i.com and the NBC4 app. 4:34 p.m. update: Proceedings have ended for the day and are expected to resume Tuesday at 9 a.m. After the state’s final witness testifies Tuesday morning, the judge said he will end the trial for the rest of the day, as he has judge-related work to do regarding the Husel trial.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The sixth week in the murder trial against a former Mount Carmel West doctor continued Monday after a week dominated by the testimony of a Tampa physician who claimed the doctor’s actions hastened the deaths of his patients.
Husel, 46, has pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the deaths of 14 ICU patients who were under his care at the former Mount Carmel West from 2015 to 2018.
Prosecuting attorneys said Monday that they will rest their cases on Tuesday after which the defense will begin to call witnesses.
The trial resumed Monday morning with a video review of Beverly Leonard’s testimony. Leonard, daughter of Melissa Penix, took the stand on March 24 and the defense brought forth the video to argue that Leonard tampered with evidence by scratching off labels from a medical bottle.
The first witness of Monday was Derek Dreyer, a licensed nurse who began working at Mt. Carmel West in 2014. The prosecution questioned Dreyer on five of Husel’s alleged victims: Brandy McDonald, James Allen, Beverlee Schirtzinger, Francis Burke, and Jeremia “Sue” Hodge. Questions pertained to the medical records of all five.
Defense attorney Jose Baez followed up with questions to Dreyer on the alleged victims and his opinion of Husel, who Dreyer worked with at Mt. Carmel West. Dreyer said he had “open communication” with Husel when discussing medical orders.
After a quick break, the prosecution called Bonnie Austin’s husband David Austin to the stand. Bonnie Austin is one of Husel’s alleged victims.
A February 2019 lawsuit alleged that Husel — who told David Austin that his wife was “brain dead” — administered 600 micrograms of fentanyl and “a large dose of Versed” to Bonnie Austin.
After the lunch break, testimony pertaining to Austin’s case continued when the prosecution called Tara Schwartz to the witness stand. Schwartz testified that she is the girlfriend of Austin’s grandson, Caleb Clark, and had a close relationship with Austin herself.
Schwartz stated that she was in the ICU with Austin’s family at Mount Camel West when she was under Husel’s care, taken off a ventilator, and died.
Defense attorney Diane Menashe then questioned Schwartz about what she remembered about being at Mount Camel West when Austin was admitted to the ICU.
During her testimony during Menashe’s questioning, Schwartz stated that she wrote a letter so she would not forget what she says she witnessed in the ICU the day Austin died.
James D. Allen, the son of James G. Allen, one of Husel’s alleged victims, also took the stand Monday.
Allen said that his father, who was taken to Mount Carmel for sepsis and gallbladder treatment, died just 20 minutes shy of his 81st birthday while under Husel’s care.
According to Allen, Husel advised the family that James G. Allen was undergoing total organ failure and would not recover.
“We thought he was waiting on surgery, and now we’re told he’s on life support – when did this happen?” Allen said.
Although Allen said he and family members requested that doctors delay removing the ventilator in order to make it to his father’s 81st birthday the following day, Allen said they received no response.
Husel allegedly told family members that he would help James G. Allen pass quickly without suffering.
Allen testified that someone in the room asked Husel “How do you know” that James G. Allen won’t suffer. Husel reportedly responded, “Experience,” Allen said.
After Allen left the witness stand, the prosecution called Sarah Burnham, the granddaughter of Sarah Castle, one of Husel’s alleged victims, to testify.
While removing Castle from the ventilator, Burnham testified that a nurse brought in a large syringe filled with viscous, cloudy fluid that was much larger than other syringes of medications administered to her grandmother.
“This one was rather large – good amount of this white fluid that just stuck out against anything,” Burnham said. “Going from those small sizes to that very large syringe was def something that stuck out.”
According to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Castle’s family, Castle died “just minutes” after being administered 1,000 micrograms of fentanyl in November 2018.
Nearly 50 witnesses, ranging from family members of critically ill patients who later died at Mount Carmel to nurses who administered potentially lethal doses of painkillers, have taken the stand thus far at Franklin County Common Pleas Court in a trial that attorneys say could last eight weeks.
Dr. John Walther Schweiger, a Tampa anesthesiologist and critical care physician, took the stand as an expert witness for the prosecution on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday last week — giving testimony that featured a litany of technical medical terms about end-of-life care.
While reviewing the medical records of Husel’s former patients, Schweiger said that in 13 of the 14 cases he analyzed, Husel hastened or caused the patients’ deaths with the administration of large doses of the potent painkiller fentanyl and other narcotics.
While prosecutors allege that Husel ordered excessive, fatal doses of the painkiller fentanyl for his patients, defense attorneys contend that the doctor was providing comfort care for critically ill patients as they were removed from a ventilator.
Here are some of the individuals who may appear during the proceedings:
- Michael Holbrook
- Dr. William Husel
- Jose Baez
- Jaime Lapidus
- Diane Menashe
- Corinne Buker
- Paula Sawyers
- Taylor Mick
- David Zeyen
- Janet Grubb