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Nurse admits in e-mail to dosing Alzheimer patient with morphine

February 22, 2001 

WATERFORD TOWNSHIP -- After finding God, Anne Nicolai wanted to make peace with herself and the world.

So, the hospice nurse wrote an e-mail to her boyfriend in which she detailed how she killed three elderly patients under her care, each with a fatal dose of morphine.

Oakland County prosecutors have not decided if charges will be filed against the 37-year-old Davison woman in the death of 95-year-old Helen Walling, who was under Nicolai's care at a Waterford Township nursing home.

Sgt. Gary Muir of the Michigan State Police interviewed Nicolai and said she does not deny the contents of the e-mail message in which she describes slipping a liquid dose of the pain killer into the mouth of Walling, who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

After receiving a copy of the e-mail from Nicolai's boyfriend last summer, investigators ordered Walling's body exhumed from a Pontiac cemetery in August. The Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office later ruled Walling's death a homicide, concluding she died of morphine poisoning.

"Based on the statements she made to me and the evidence we turned up, I think there is some type of murder charge here," Muir said. "If they feel what she did is premeditated, she could be charged with first-degree murder."

Defense lawyer James Burdick said Nicolai was suffering from untreated bi-polar disorder when she wrote the e-mail to her boyfriend.

"Her lamentations about the death played on her mind and her conscience," Burdick said. "No way is this murder, no way is this assisted suicide. It's helping this woman through this horrendous and nearly unendurable life."

Burdick said he was encouraged that Oakland County Prosecutor Dave Gorcyca was taking his time to decide whether Nicolai had broken the law. Prosecutors received a warrant request on Nicolai at the end of January. She has not been charged in any of the deaths.

Gorcyca said no decision has been made on the case because investigators are still attempting to find witnesses who were employed with the nursing home in July 1996, when Walling died.

"There is so much we have to focus on, especially the intent of woman," Gorcyca said. "Was her intent to alleviate pain and suffering or to end life prematurely? We don't know whether she was playing God."

© 2001 Jennifer Chambers, The Detroit News/a>

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