COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Opening statements in the murder trial of Dr. William Husel on Tuesday made clear who the 14 alleged victims were.
Franklin County Assistant Prosecutor Janet Grubb read their names to jurors after last month, the prosecutor’s office decided to pursue charges in these 14 cases out of 25 that Husel was originally charged in.
The dates of the deaths range from 2015 to 2018, when Husel was an ICU physician at the former Mount Carmel West hospital.
Details of the alleged victim’s lives come from obituaries and statements from family, and also from wrongful death lawsuits filed against Husel and Mount Carmel in the months after Husel was fired in late 2018 and charged in 2019.
Joanne S. Bellisari
While a patient at Mount Carmel Health Center, Bellisari, 69, died on May 10, 2015, after receiving what her family said was “a lethal dose” of fentanyl.
Under Husel’s care, Bellisari was allegedly prescribed 1,000 micrograms of fentanyl. Eight minutes later, she died, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Albert Bellisari, the executor of her estate, in January 2019.
According to her obituary, Bellisari retired from Graham Ford auto dealership in Columbus after 35 years of service.
Information on Hayes was not immediately available.
Beverlee Ann Schirtzinger
Schirtzinger, 63, sought medical care for a liver biopsy at Mount Carmel Health Center in October 2017 after doctors identified a mass in her lungs and what appeared to be cancer in her lungs, according to a civil complaint filed by her daughter, Amy Pfaff.
After experiencing “severe abdominal pain” and internal bleeding, Schirtzinger suffered a heart attack but was resuscitated, the complaint said.
“Shortly after the successful resuscitation, Defendant Husel convinced the family members that Beverlee’s prognosis was grim and that they should withdraw care,” the complaint said.
Schirtzinger’s family agreed to change her status to “DNR,” or do not resuscitate, and Husel administered an allegedly “lethal dose of fentanyl.”
Ten minutes after receiving the dose, Schirtzinger died, just a “week shy of her 64th birthday,” on Oct. 9, 2017, according to the complaint.
“I hope that after all of this people are aware that this sort of thing can happen,” Pfaff said. “I hope that hospitals nationwide can have policies in place should there ever be a question no medication that it is questioned or some sort of red flag.”
Mollette, 74, of Galloway, died on Dec. 5, 2017, after receiving what his family said was a lethal dose of fentanyl, versed and hydromorphone.
Along with an X-ray at Mount Carmel West that revealed a fracture of his right toe in October 2017, emergency department physicians prescribed Mollette diabetes medication upon discovery of his abnormally high blood pressure, according to a wrongful death complaint filed his wife, Susan, in June 2019.
A few days later, a primary care doctor instructed Mollette to return to Mount Carmel West’s emergency department because his right toe “looked dusty and discolored,” the complaint said.
On Nov. 24, 2017, Mollette’s toe was partially amputated, according to the complaint. About a week later, Mollette was admitted to the ICU at Mount Carmel and intubated after becoming “agitated and confused.”
Husel allegedly ordered 1,000 micrograms of fentanyl, 4 milligrams of versed and 2 milligrams of Dilaudid for Mollette. Two minutes after receiving the fentanyl dose, Mollette was extubated from a ventilator at Husel’s orders, the complaint said.
According to opening statements from Husel’s attorney Jose Baez, Mollette suffered four cardiac arrests before receiving the dose of fentanyl.
Mollette’s obituary said he was a father of five, grandfather of eight and great-grandfather of five.
McDonald, 37, of London sought medical care at Mount Carmel Health System on Jan. 11, 2018, “due to elevated liver enzymes related to metastatic cancer,” according to a wrongful death suit filed by John Kriegbaum, administrator of McDonald’s estate.
She was transferred to the ICU for progressive liver failure and severe acidosis, and her family decided to change her status to “DNR,” or do not resuscitate, the complaint said.
Fourteen minutes after receiving what Kriegbaum said was “a lethal dose of fentanyl” ordered by Dr. Husel on Jan. 14, McDonald died, according to the complaint.
Information on Burke was not immediately available.
Jeremia “Sue” Hodge
Hodge, 57, died April 1, 2018.
Her son, Robert, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Mount Carmel Health System and Husel on April 1, 2019, the one-year anniversary of Hodge’s death.
In his civil complaint, Robert alleged that Hodge was taken to the emergency department at Mount Carmel after experiencing “shortness of breath.”
Husel, assigned to Hodge’s care, told family members that her organs were shutting down and a decision needed to be made “about whether to withdraw life support,” according to the complaint. He then allegedly ordered an “excess of 500 micrograms” of fentanyl for Hodge, and she died shortly after, the complaint said.
After a settlement reached between the parties, Robert Hodge dismissed all claims filed against the defendants, effectively terminating the case, according to court documents with the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.
According to her obituary, Hodge left behind five sons and 12 grandchildren.
Just 20 minutes shy of his 81st birthday, Allen died on May 28, 2018, after allegedly receiving 1,000 micrograms of fentanyl while under Husel’s care.
After arriving at Mount Carmel, Allen was diagnosed with a severe infection and gallstones that blocked his bile duct, according to attorneys for Allen’s family.
Around 8 or 9 p.m. on May 28, Allen was transferred to the ICU after suffering cardiopulmonary arrest, according to a wrongful death suit filed by Barbara Allen, the administrator of Allen’s estate, in January 2019.
While in the ICU, Allen’s family believed him to be stable, attorneys said.
When they returned to the hospital later that night, attorneys said Husel informed them that Allen was in “complete organ failure,” and according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Barbara Allen, the administrator of Allen’s estate, the family agreed to remove him from the ventilator.
“Dealing with Jim’s death when it happened was a difficult process for our family. Having to live through that death again, in this context, is all the more painful. Our family seeks answers to the difficult questions everyone is asking, and we hope to find out what really happened through this process. We ask that everyone please respect our privacy during this difficult time,” the Allen family said in a statement.
According to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by his wife, Christine, the 44-year-old arrived at Mount Carmel around 11 p.m. on July 14.
“Less than two hours after arriving, his wife — Plaintiff Christine Allision — was told that Troy Allison was ‘brain dead’ and was encouraged to change his status to ‘do not resuscitate,'” the complaint said.
A day later, Husel allegedly ordered a “lethal dose of fentanyl” for Allison, who died three minutes later, according to the complaint.
The 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 Austin.
Within minutes of receiving the “lethal dose,” Austin died, according to the complaint.
After learning about his wife’s death months later, David Austin said he felt “like somebody kicked me in the chest.”
“Let’s not let it happen again,” David Austin said. “You can’t bring my wife back, but maybe it’ll stop it from happening again.”
James Nikolas Timmons
Timmons, 39, died Oct. 24, 2018, after receiving what his brother Lynn Marshall said was a “lethal” and “grossly inappropriate dose” of fentanyl.
After experiencing hypothermia and an “altered mental status,” Timmons was brought to Mount Carmel on Oct. 22, where he was transferred to the ICU and stabilized on a ventilator, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Marshall in February 2019.
Husel allegedly told Marshall that Timmons was “brain dead and his organs were shutting down,” according to the lawsuit. At the encouragement of Husel, Marshall agreed to remove his brother from life support.
Thirteen minutes after receiving an allegedly “lethal dose” of 1,000 micrograms of fentanyl, 10 milligrams of the sedative Versed and 10 milligrams of the narcotic pain medication Dilaudid, Timmons died, the complaint said.
The family of Castle, a patient at Mount Carmel in November 2018, alleged in a wrongful death lawsuit that she died after being given a “lethal dose” of fentanyl by Dr. Husel.
According to the complaint, Castle died on Nov. 13 “just minutes” after receiving 1,000 micrograms of fentanyl.
Castle received the fentanyl dosage “after Mount Carmel was aware of formal reports relating to the concerning actions” of Husel and other hospital staff, the complaint said.
According to her obituary, Castle, a former medical claim specialist with the state of Ohio, was a “longtime volunteer with the Red Cross and Suicide Prevention.”
“Sandy will be remembered for her loving and generous heart,” the obituary states. “She gave blankets to the homeless, bikes to the fire department at Christmas and honored theme very September 11 along with many other generous deeds.”
More than three weeks after a formal complaint was filed against Dr. Husel, Walls, 75, of Columbus, died under his care on Nov. 19, 2018.
Walls, a retired state worker, was transported to Mount Carmel after experiencing shortness of breath and lightheadedness, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Janet Watkins, the administrator of Walls’ estate, in January 2019.
Shortly after undergoing cardiac catheterization, her condition worsened and she was placed in the intensive care unit, the lawsuit said.
After Watkins agreed to switch Walls’ code status to “do not resuscitate,” Husel allegedly prescribed her 1,000 micrograms of fentanyl and “a large dose of Versed,” the complaint said.
Within minutes of receiving the dose, Walls died, according to the complaint.
Mike Rourke, an attorney representing Watkins, said the 75-year-old “wasn’t given a chance.”
“She was going into kidney failure due to complications from the heart stent,” Rourke said. “We don’t think that she was given the time to have her kidneys recover to see if she could walk out of the hospital.”
In August 2019, Walls’ family agreed to a $4.35 million settlement with Mount Carmel Health System.
Penix, 82, died on Nov. 20, 2018, after receiving 2,000 micrograms of fentanyl allegedly ordered by Husel.
After complaining of stomach pains, Penix was taken to Mount Carmel West, where she was diagnosed with and treated for pneumonia.
Penix was transferred to the ICU and placed on a ventilator, where family members said that despite being sedated, she responded to family members, opened her eyes and displayed other physical movements.
On Nov. 20, Penix sat up in her bed and complained of stomach pain, according to attorneys. A few hours later, Husel allegedly told the family Penix was brain dead shortly after 9 p.m. The family was encouraged to remove care, to which they consented.
According to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the administrator of Penix’s estate in February 2019, the 82-year-old died “just five minutes after receiving the lethal dose of Fentanyl.”
“Our family is immensely disappointed in the tragic choices of Dr. William Husel, the nurses, pharmacists, and leadership of Mount Carmel Health System,” according to a statement released by Penix’s family in July 2019. “Melissa, affectionately known as Mel or Meemaw, was a devoted Christian, a wife of more than 65 years, a mother to all who graced her home, a loving and laughing grandmother, and cookie giving, color-right-along-with-you great grandmother. She was rooted in her faith and family – a legacy of love that will live on long after her time with us.”