'Angel of Death' serial killer badly beaten in Ohio prison

OH authorities say a serial killer who admitted killing three dozen hospital patients in OH and Kentucky during the 1970s and '80s has died after being attacked in his cell.

He pleaded guilty to that and other murders to avoid the death penalty, according to court records.

FILE - In this September 1987 file photo, serial killer Donald Harvey stands before a judge during sentencing in Cincinnati.

Later, Harvey told detectives he used cyanide most of the time because it was hard to detect.

I learned that Donald Harvey died this morning after being beaten in prison.

The state highway patrol is investigating the beating, but did not release further details, Smith said.

A patrol report said the 64-year-old was beaten when an unnamed person entered his cell.

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After being convicted, he claimed his was behind another 18 patient deaths at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Cincinnati.

The possibility of more victims spooked the Tri-State; prosecutor Art Ney addressed those concerns and assured that his office "left no stone unturned".

His spree was uncovered during an autopsy on one of his Drake Hospital victims, after a doctor detected a whiff of cyanide and traced the death back to the hospital orderly. Some of the patients were suffocated when he let their oxygen tanks run out.

JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, tells PEOPLE that Harvey died from his injures at 9:08 a.m. Thursday in a hospital.

Working as a nurse's assistant, Harvey said he had killed his victims to end their suffering as many were chronically ill.

Harvey claimed variously that he was a mercy killer putting dying patients out of their misery and also that he enjoyed the power of controlling who got to live and die on his wards.

"He killed because he liked to kill", Mr Ney said. Harvey, who was serving multiple life sentences, was found beaten in his cell Tuesday afternoon at the state's prison in Toledo, state officials said.

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