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'Angel of Death' sentenced 10 years ago

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Orville Lynn Majors walks down the steps of the Clay County Courthouse October 1999.
Ten years ago, Linton native Orville Lynn Majors Jr., was convicted in the lethal injection murders of six patients at the old Vermillion County Hospital in Clinton.

The jury's Oct. 17, 1999, verdict came on the 61st birthday of his mother, Anna Belle Majors.

On Nov. 15, 1999, Majors, a licensed practical nurse, was sentenced to 360 years in prison -- six consecutive 60-year sentences.

Ten years later, the 48-year-old Greene County man is Indiana Department of Correction inmate No. 995992 at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. His earliest possible release date is July 1, 2177, according to DOC records.

Majors was dubbed as the "Angel of Death," during the investigation and trial, which drew worldwide media attention to the Linton community.

He operated a downtown pet shop in Linton during the investigation following his termination from the hospital staff in 1995.

Lynn, as he was known around the community, later owned and operated a small floral shop in a used car business owned by his sister and brother-in-law on State Road 54 near the Park Inn.

Linton businessman Fred Markle said the multiple murder charges brought against Majors was a "huge deal."

"It's hard to believe it's been 10 years. It doesn't seem like it's been that long," Markle said.

Markle said news of Majors' arrest and conviction hit the town and community hard.

"The downtown community is like a big family in a way. You see everybody at least every two or three days. Lynn always came in and bought his signage for his little pet shop that he had. We always talked and had conversations. He was a pretty good conversationist. It was really a shock that he could do what he done. I think in his mind, maybe he thought he was doing some good to some degree," Markle said.

The court trial followed a 33-month investigation, which probed 165 deaths at the hospital between 1993-95, and cost the state of Indiana more than $2 million.

A total of 15 bodies were exhumed during the probe that is estimated to have consumed 90,000 man-hours of investigation work.

Eventually, Majors was convicted of the murders of six intensive care unit (ICU) patients -- Ethel Rozsa, Margaret Hornick, Mary Ann Alderson, Cecil Ivan Smith, Luella A. Hopkins and Freddie Dale Wilson.

All the victims, who were ages 56 to 89, were said to have been in stable condition before they died suddenly while under Majors' care.

Prosecutor Mark Greenwell said Majors "played God," in his actions as he injected each with potassium chloride, a chemical that is used in hospitals to control irregular heartbeat, but can kill in high concentrations.

It is used for lethal injections in some states for death row inmates, according to an Associated Press report.

Majors, a Linton-Stockton High School graduate, became the target of an investigation that started in March 1995, after a series of suspicious patient deaths at the rural hospital.

The unusual string of deaths was noticed in 1993, soon after Majors was hired at the hospital.

The investigation ultimately revealed that Majors was present at the sudden and unexpected deaths of seven patients, and that no one else was present at all seven.

The state originally charged Majors with seven counts of murder.

The trial was moved from Vermillion County and tried in Brazil by then Judge Ernest Yelton of the Clay Circuit Court, with jurors from Miami County.

The sequestered jury heard testimony for about six weeks and deliberated more than three days. It found Majors guilty on six counts and deadlocked on the seventh, resulting in a mistrial on that count.

In an affidavit, prosecutors said that a witness, Paula Holdaway, saw Majors give her mother Dorothea Hixon, an injection.

"Majors kissed her on the forehead, brushed her hair back and said, 'it's going to be all right, punkin; everything's going to be all right now,'" according to a statement by an Indiana State Police detective, Frank Turchi, in the affidavit.

"Within 60 seconds after that," the statement continued, "Hixon rolled her eyes back and died."

During the investigation, Majors steadfastly maintained he could never kill anyone, telling one local newspaper that to take a life would be like playing God.

He also confronted accusing families on Montel Williams' and Phil Donahue's television talk shows during the investigation.

However, when the search warrants were served at Majors' home in Linton and his van, investigators found potassium chloride and evidence of epinephrine possession. Those drugs, the medical reviewers told investigators, could have caused several of the mysterious deaths, according to the Associated Press.

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Really..who cares? Why drag down our area with this constant reminder of a bad issue? Tell you what, why not go write Sharon Tate's family every 1o yrs. and tell graphically how their daughter was murdered and then make that fodder for your talent? Bet they wouldn't appreciate it either. Seriously, let this man be what he is...a non-entity. ANY story about him whether you are writing this in order to inform, just sounds like glorification. LEAVE it. Have respect for grief and LEAVE IT ALONE.

-- Posted by karenmeister on Tue, Oct 20, 2009, at 2:13 AM

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