Nurse accused of killing eight seniors went to rehab twice: friend

A photo from the Facebook page of Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer of Woodstock, Ont. is shown. A Woodstock, Ont, nurse has been charged with eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of eight nursing home residents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Facebook MANDATORY CREDIT

WOODSTOCK, Ont. - Just a few weeks ago, Elizabeth Wettlaufer gave away her beloved dog, Nashville, a spry Jack Russell terrier.

Her friends thought the move odd, but they now wonder if the 49-year-old nurse knew what was coming.

On Tuesday, Wettlaufer was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of seniors in her care — seven of them at a nursing home just a 15-minute walk from her apartment in Woodstock, Ont.

As news broke about her charges, her friends gathered outside the apartment building, trying to piece it all together.

"She was a happy-go-lucky lady," said Nancy Gilbert, who lived downstairs from Wettlaufer's fifth-floor apartment.

"It's hard to believe, really, really hard to believe."

Wettlaufer would often join their tight little group as they sat on the grass outside the apartment when the weather was nice, chatting the night away, Gilbert said.

She and Wettlaufer had dinner at Kelsey's just a few weeks ago.

During that meal, Wettlaufer told her she had just gotten out of rehab at a facility in Toronto — it was the second such time, Gilbert said.

A Facebook page for a Bethe Wettlaufer, whose photo, education and employment records match that of Elizabeth Wettlaufer, makes reference to what appears to be a struggle with substance abuse.

"My own voice called to me in the darkness. Others hands lifted me when I chose the light. One year ago today I woke up not dead. 365 days clean and sober," says a post from September 2015.

Amid police concerns that she would commit a "serious personal injury," Wettlaufer was made subject of a peace bond earlier this month with 10 conditions, including that she live with her parents in Woodstock, observe a night-time curfew, and refrain from acting as a caregiver to anyone.

In addition, she was banned from possessing insulin or any other medication unless it was for her own use. She was also barred by the court order from visiting any long-term care facility, nursing or retirement home, or hospital unless she needed medical treatment.

Wettlaufer was further required to "continue any treatment for mental health," and stay away from alcohol.

Charlene Puffer said she lived down the hall from Wettlaufer's apartment and described her neighbour as a decent person.

She said Wettlaufer was quiet and loved her pets, which also included two cats. Gilbert said Wettlaufer lived alone and court records indicate she filed for divorce in 2008.

Records from the College of Nurses of Ontario show Wettlaufer was first registered as a nurse in August 1995 but resigned Sept. 30 of this year and is no longer a registered nurse.

While police refused to provide details of their investigation, court documents show Wettlaufer had been on their radar for some time.

Her friends said they hadn't seen the nurse much in recent weeks as she told them she was living with parents.

Gilbert said Wettlaufer had told her about a developmentally challenged child she had been helping take care of, which only furthered the friend's disbelief at the charges.

Before she worked at Caressant Care, Wettlaufer worked at Christian Horizons, a faith-based charitable organization which works with people with developmental disabilities.

The organization said Wettlaufer left in June 2007 and noted that the allegations she now faces are not connected to her employment with Christian Horizons.

"We are shocked and saddened by these tragic deaths, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and the Woodstock community," the organization's CEO, Janet Noel-Annable, said in a statement.

Wettlaufer appeared in court Tuesday morning and was remanded into custody until her next court hearing on Nov. 2. A lawyer for Wettlaufer could not immediately be reached.

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