A nurse charged in the death of a Veterans Affairs Medical Center patient entered a not guilty plea Friday during an arraignment in U.S. District Court.
Maria K. Whitt, 32, of Mount Sterling, is charged with murder in the death of 90-year-old World War II veteran Jesse Lee Chain, who died of a morphine overdose Sept. 3, 2006.
Senior Judge Karl S. Forester set a Dec. 7 trial date.
Patrick Nash, Whitt's attorney, said he anticipates calling expert witnesses and said he might be asking that the trial date be changed.
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Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger W. West said the trial would take eight to 10 days.
In a hearing on Thursday, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General said at least two other patients died under suspicious circumstances while under Whitt's care at the VA hospital off Cooper Drive.
Whitt was indicted by a grand jury Oct. 2. She was arrested Tuesday and taken to the Grayson County Detention Center. Nash said Whitt is "very upset and worried."
"I think this case is going to involve a lot of expert testimony," he said. He also said he had questions about other health care workers who had been caring for Chain at the time of his death.
Meanwhile, a detention hearing to determine whether Whitt should remain in custody or be released with provisions will continue at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
"She's a great candidate for bail," Nash said afterward. He said that Whitt, to his knowledge, has no prior criminal record, has a supportive family and strong ties to her community.
An uncle and aunt of the defendant were in court for the arraignment.
Nash said Whitt, who holds an associate degree in nursing, has two daughters — one 14, the other two.
On Wednesday, Whitt was suspended from her job at St. Joseph-Mount Sterling hospital, where she had worked since February. She also had previously worked at Clark Regional Medical Center in Winchester.