Acquitted After Deaths of 14 Patients, Ohio Doctor William Husel Tells PEOPLE: 'I'm Not a Killer'

Dr. William Husel, 46, was accused of overdosing his terminally ill patients

William Husel
Photo: Mount Carmel Health

As a jury deliberated his fate, Dr. William Husel sat in the living room of his attorney's Columbus, Ohio, AirBnb, unsure of whether he would soon become a convicted murderer — or a free man.

Husel, 46, had been accused of killing at least 14 of his patients at Ohio's Mount Carmel Hospital with overdoses of fentanyl -- in some cases, doses that were up to 10 times higher than what some experts said was the typical palliative amount. While the prosecution was unable to identify a motive in the deaths, they maintained that his actions fell under the definition of murder.

Husel was represented by attorney Jose Baez, who previously defended high-profile defendants like Casey Anthony and Aaron Hernandez. In court, Baez steadfastly maintained that Husel was administering the drug simply to alleviate the patients' pain.

On Wednesday morning, the jury agreed with Baez, and acquitted Husel of all charges.

"The Jury after review of all the evidence was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that William Husel was guilty of any charges submitted to them," the Franklin County District Attorney's office said in a statement to PEOPLE. "We accept the jury's verdict."

Dr. William Husel, left, and defense attorney Jose Baez stand during Husel's trial, in Columbus, Ohio. Husel is accused of ordering excessive painkillers for patients in the Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System. He was indicted in cases involving at least 500 micrograms of the powerful painkiller fentanyl
Barbara Perenic/AP/Shutterstock

Before the verdict, Husel sat down with PEOPLE to discuss the case — and to maintain his innocence. "I'm not a killer," he says. "I'm not guilty of what they say I did."

Husel says he had been a doctor for five years when he got a worrying call from an administrator at Mount Carmel West hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

"It was the day before Thanksgiving, 2018," he says. "I got an email from the Vice President of Medical Affairs. And he says, 'There's been some concerns about your dosing habits. Please call me.'"

"My heart dropped and my stomach kind of turned a little bit," he says. "I remember the first thing I thought of is, 'Am I going to lose my job?'"

Soon, Husel learned that he was the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation — and was suspected of being one of the most prolific serial killers in Ohio history. While he was originally charged with killing 25 patients, the prosecution later decided to pursue only 14 of those counts.

Husel says he was in disbelief when he was charged. "I couldn't believe it, because I knew what the truth was. We were there helping people and saving people. And I was like, 'How could they twist this around and charge me with murder?'"

Husel estimates that he saw about 25,000 patients during the years he worked at Mt. Carmel West — and insists that nothing about the 14 patients was different than anyone else. "I cared for my patients," he says. "I felt that the doses were appropriate for the patients. We were providing comfort care."

"At Mount Carmel, they didn't have any policy or protocol for dosage," he continues. "It's up to the physician, at his discretion, to manage the symptom at end of life."

Despite the murder trial, Husel steadfastly maintains he did nothing wrong. "I feel like my care was the right care for the patients at the time," he says. "Again, remember, any time you come into the ICU, you're very sick, critically ill. This is the sickest of the sickest. So it's my burden as a physician and number one, approach the family and describe how sick they really are. That's number one.

"It's very important for the physician to give an accurate and honest update of the clinical situation so the family is well informed of how sick this patient really is," he says. "I had nurses and chaplains with me during these discussions and they backed up how sick these patients really were and what the family decisions were at that time."

Dr. William Husel
Courtesy Dr. William Husel

Now exonerated on murder charges, Husel still faces civil suits from many patients' families. He and his wife, Mariah, a former nurse at Mt. Carmel, have been raising their two children in the home of Mariah's parents.

"The last three-and-a-half years, we've had this weight that's been on our chest," he says. "And finally, it's going to come off. We're going to try to just kind of calm the nervous system down a little bit, heal and try to just pick up the pieces and then try to get an apartment of our own again."

As for the families of the people he was acquitted of killing, Husel says that he still thinks about them frequently. "I feel grief for these families," he says. "They've been through a difficult situation. I understand that they're suffering and I do feel for them."

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