Wash. Nurse Accused of Spreading Hep C to Patients With Her Drug Needles Allegedly Planned to Commit Suicide
The Washington nurse who allegedly admitted to using injectable narcotics meant for hospital patients, which authorities say caused a hepatitis C outbreak among patients exposed to her needles, said she took the drugs “with a plan to end her life,” according to a new document in the case obtained by PEOPLE.
Cora Weberg, 31, has not yet been charged with any crimes despite her arrest last week on suspicion of two counts of second-degree assault. At the time of her arrest, authorities alleged that two patients contracted the virus during their emergency room encounters with the nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup.
On Monday the state immediately suspended her nursing license, citing the allegations that Weberg “has allegedly admitted to diverting fentanyl and hydromorphone,” PEOPLE confirms.
An amended probable cause complaint released Tuesday by Puyallup police accuses Weberg of “extreme indifference for the safety of patients,” and says authorities possibly have identified two more cases of hepatitis C infection related to Weberg “knowingly cross-contaminating patient medication and medical instruments with her own blood.”
The updated complaint further alleges that Weberg told police she was diagnosed with hepatitis C “a couple years ago,” contradicting her defenders, including her mother and her defense attorney, who had said that Weberg was unaware she carried the virus.
“This is a terrible allegation,” her attorney, Bryan Hershman, said at a news conference Friday, The News Tribune reported. “I hope we all stand back and take a deep breath and really look at what the evidence says. To date, I haven’t seen what evidence they have that would prove she intentionally infected anybody.”
Weberg did not use any needles on patients that she had used on herself, he said.
Nurse Allegedly Got Around Hospital Protocol
Weberg told investigators she never denied patients their prescribed dose of medications — identified primarily as Dilaudid, a pain medication derived from morphine — but allegedly admitted took the leftover liquid for her own use, according to the probable cause document.
“She admitted to diverting fentanyl and Dilaudid with a plan to end her life,” it states. “She claimed her plan to end her life was due to” an unhappy relationship with her boyfriend, which she ultimately ended.
Weberg’s alleged diversion of the medication occurred during a heavily monitored process, in which prescribed narcotics are dispensed in vials by a machine that requires an ID badge scan and fingerprint confirmation. Per hospital protocol, any excess medication dispensed by the machine and not given to the patient must then be disposed of, or “wasted,” by emptying it into a sink, with that action witnessed by a second nurse, according to the probable cause document.
The probable cause document alleges Weberg replaced the drug solution with saline or other liquids.
The hospital began an investigation in February after learning that a 60-year-old patient who came to the emergency room on Dec. 7, 2017, with acute appendicitis later was found to have contracted hepatitis C. A second patient, a 50-year-old female treated in the emergency room for post-surgical pains on Dec. 16, 2017, also later showed symptoms of a hepatitis C infection.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
“No physicians or nurses other than Cora Weberg were common to both patients,” the probable cause document states.
When a blood test confirmed Weberg had hepatitis C, she was placed on administrative leave on March 23. Subsequent tests involving the two patients indicated a “96-97 percent probability” they contracted the virus from the same source, but there was “insufficient quantity or quality” of the virus in Weberg’s blood sample to reach a cross-comparison conclusion with the patients.
After the hospital review identified several “statistical discrepancies” in Weberg’s withdrawal of narcotics from the dispensing machine “without explanation,” investigators asked Weberg on April 3 for a hair sample for drug testing. She refused and quit, the hospital reported.
The hospital eventually examined more than 100 patient records related to Weberg and found “incidences of irregular medication practice including late administration, late wasting, lack of documentation of administration and wasting, and pulling narcotics and then wasting them hours later.” Police say the hospital’s report specifically cites discrepancies involving “13 separate patients” but alleges there are “dozens more.”
Weberg’s allegedly admitted to the allegations after receiving a phone call from Nursing Commission investigator Gene Pingle, telling him she diverted the liquid medication for her use before replacing it with saline or other liquids “prior to finding a nurse to witness the waste,” according to the probable cause statement.
Authorities arrested Weberg on May 3 at the U.S-Canada border, and found texts on her boyfriend’s phone that revealed “she admitted she stole medications from the hospital but ‘they don’t have any proof yet,’ and that she was leaving the country,” the probable cause document alleges.
Weberg’s mother, Eunice, said her daughter was departing for a planned trip to Guam. Weberg was briefly detained in the Pierce County Jail but released Friday.
“The case is still in the works,” James Lynch, a spokesman for the Pierce County Prosecutor’s office, told The Spokesman-Review. “They’re just waiting for more information to come in.”