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Jurors hear opening remarks in 'Angel of Death' case

WOODSTOCK – The "Angel of Death" case isn't something out of a Hollywood movie but something that happened in Woodstock about a mile away from the courthouse they were sitting in, prosecutors told jurors today.

Penny Whitlock, 62, was a nursing supervisor at the former Woodstock Residence but did nothing after being told that one of her subordinate nurses was over-medicating patients with morphine, said Phil Hiscock, chief of the McHenry County State's Attorney's criminal division.

Marty Himebaugh, who is accused of administering the drug, will be tried separately.

In fact, another nurse, Eleanore LaRocco, testified that she heard Whitlock tell Himebaugh, “I don’t care if you play the Angel of Death, but just don’t let me know about it.”

Authorities are not accusing the women of killing the patients at the Woodstock Residence nursing home, but prosecutors said their conduct “recklessly endangered” the patients’ lives. Whitlock is charged with five counts of neglect and two counts of obstructing justice.

Hiscock said Whitlock had been stockpiling morphine in her desk after patients died, but when she found out police were investigating, she destroyed it.

Von Keudell said prosecutors were painting Whitlock as some kind of murderer, when that wasn't the case – nor what she was charged with.

"Penny Whitlock didn't know Marty Himebaugh was killing people," Von Keudell said. "In fact, Marty Himebaugh wasn't killing people."

He said the case is about "rumor, circumstance, innuendo and hearsay."

Illinois State Police began investigating suspected fatal morphine overdoses after receiving tips from other employees. Three bodies were exhumed in connection with the case, including the body of Virginia Cole, who died Sept. 10, 2006, at age 78.

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