Family Seeks Justice for Woman Killed by Fort Frances Nurse
For immediate release: August 29, 2022
The following statements can be attributed to Melvin Fletcher Jr. and his daughter, Melissa Fletcher, surviving family members of the late Hermina Fletcher:
“Over 7 years ago, nurse Lindsey Coyle killed Hermina Fletcher, our mother and grandmother, while she was in her care and in a compromised, vulnerable state at LaVerendrye Hospital in Fort Frances.
“Today the Ontario Court of Justice accepted an agreed statement of facts that confirmed that Ms. Coyle’s actions are what caused Hermina’s death. The court accepted as fact that Ms. Coyle fraudulently manipulated Hermina’s medication records during her shift on January 3, 2015 to increase her morphine dosages, which she then stole.
“Ms. Coyle admitted that she misappropriated these drugs for her own use. Ms. Coyle also admitted that she was often high while working at the hospital, and that she had been engaging in this conduct for a significant period of time.
“It took 4 years for Ms. Coyle to be charged with second-degree murder, fraud, and other offences. She has lived freely in the community with little consequence since Hermina’s death. It has been over 3 years since she was charged. Waiting for justice has continued to be difficult for our family.
“Ms. Coyle has now pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of criminal negligence causing death and one breach of a bail condition. The balance of her charges were withdrawn. We understand that this is part of a ‘deal’ she has struck with the Crown Attorney, under which a mere two-year jail sentence may be recommended to the court. It is possible that Ms. Coyle will not even serve that time in custody, given the timeline for parole eligibility.
“In light of what we heard today in court, we remain fearful that this conviction may not result in a sentence that reflects the gravity of what has happened. Not only would a light sentence be upsetting to our family and the suffering of our late mother and grandmother, but it would also disrespect all victims of elder abuse and all those who have been victimized or taken advantage of while undergoing medical treatment.
“Ms. Coyle was a licensed medical professional in a position of authority and public trust. She abused that authority and trust. She knew what she was doing. She knew what the serious or fatal harm to Hermina could be. This was not a mere error or oversight – it was a selfish and calculated attempt to take advantage of an elderly victim who was in medical distress.
“There could be other victims too. We are horrified that in the years since news of Ms. Coyle’s arrest, we have been approached by other members of the community who felt they or their loved ones were similarly targeted.
“We will be submitting victim impact statements which we hope will assist the court in applying a just and severe sentence that accords with Ms. Coyle’s reprehensible actions.”
The following statements can be attributed to Douglas W. Judson, lawyer for Melvin Fletcher Jr. and Melissa Fletcher:
“This crime was committed by a healthcare professional in a position of trust, against a powerless and vulnerable victim. This is an aggravating factor that my clients are concerned may not be adequately accounted for at sentencing. My clients are optimistic that victim impact statements will help to convey this concern.
“Hermina was of limited means. Her husband, Melvin Fletcher Sr., passed away without closure about the circumstances of his wife’s death. The manner of her death has been extremely upsetting to the surviving family. They have been carrying that for over 7 years, while Ms. Coyle has been on a bail release.
“Today was a difficult day for Hermina’s family in court. We know all members of the community will find the facts accepted by the court to be shocking and disturbing. Those events warrant serious denunciation by our justice system.”
Ms. Coyle’s guilty plea to criminal negligence causing death was entered today at the Fort Frances Courthouse. The matter has been adjourned to October 25, 2022 to set a date for sentencing and to monitor the completion of a pre-sentence report.
Questions and requests will only be addressed through the contact identified below.
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Hermina Fletcher was admitted to LaVerendrye Hospital, a public hospital in Fort Frances, Ontario that forms part of Riverside Health Care Facilities Inc., on December 20, 2014.
The agreed statement of facts read into the court today indicates that Ms. Coyle manipulated Hermina's medication administration records throughout her nursing shift on January 3, 2015 and that she did this in order to steal her morphine.
Hermina died in hospital around 6:11 AM on January 4, 2015. The court clarified today that this was a result of receiving a substantially increased morphine dosage – in full – based on the fraudulently manipulated medical record.
Media reports from 2019 suggest that shortly after Hermina’s death, the hospital reported Ms. Coyle to police. Ms. Coyle’s employment at Riverside was terminated by the end of January 2015.
A proceeding was initiated against Ms. Coyle by the College of Nurses of Ontario in 2015, and by January 2016, Ms. Coyle surrendered her nursing license. The College’s public directory of nurses indicates Ms. Coyle’s status as being “Not Entitled to Practice”.
It would take over 4 years after Hermina’s death – until August 2019 – for Ms. Coyle to be charged with second-degree murder. Ms. Coyle’s charges have now been before the court for almost 3 years, with January 2022 marking the seventh anniversary of Hermina’s death. Today's court appearance was the first and only public clarification of the events leading to Hermina's death.
In the 7 years since Hermina was killed, Ms. Coyle has continued live freely in the community, despite breaching her bail conditions. Due to a publication ban, it is unclear whether the Crown has ever required Ms. Coyle to contest a bail hearing.
In the lead up to today's plea, Ms. Coyle’s charges were adjourned over 32 times. Neither Ms. Coyle nor her lawyer have been present for the majority of these appearances. Instead, the Crown Attorney has appeared on behalf of Ms. Coyle’s defence lawyer on numerous occasions. This courtesy is rarely provided to other accused persons or counsel.
On April 19, 2021, Hermina’s estate, Melvin Fletcher Jr., and Melissa Fletcher commenced a civil action against Ms. Coyle and Riverside in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Riverside has defended the allegations, denying liability. Ms. Coyle has not filed a defence. She is thus in default. The civil matter has yet to go to trial.
Douglas W. Judson
Barrister & Solicitor