Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Angel of Death: The Donald Harvey Story


Warren Correctional Institution main entrance
Warren Correctional Institution main entrance

Within the walls of Warren Correctional Institution in Lebanon, Ohio, Donald Harvey, inmate number A-199449, a self-professed angel of death, is serving out four consecutive life sentences. From April 1983 to September 1986, while working as an orderly for Drake Memorial Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, Harvey committed a series of murders.  It has been nearly 15 years since Harvey's arrest and conviction, many questions still remain: why had such a seemingly bright and ambitious man taken it upon himself to play God with the lives of so many?  Were these truly mercy killings, as he claimed , or were they nothing more than an outlet for a twisted man to achieve a sick form of gratification? 

Donald Harvey
Donald Harvey

Donald Harvey was born in Butler County, Ohio, in 1952.  Shortly after his birth, Harvey's parents relocated to Booneville, Kentucky, a small community nestled away on the eastern slopes of the Appalachian Mountains.  In an August 14, 1987, interview with Cincinnati Post reporter Nadine Louthan, Harvey's mother, Goldie Harvey, recalled that her son was brought up in a loving family environment.

"My son has always been a good boy," she said.

Martha D. Turner, who was principal of the elementary school Harvey attended for eight years, backed up McKinney's comments in her own interview with the Cincinnati Post:

"Donnie was a very special child to me," she said.  He was always clean and well dressed with his hair trimmed.  He was a happy child, very sociable and well-liked by the other children.  He was a handsome boy with big brown eyes and dark curly hair … he always had a smile for me.  There was never any indication of any abnormality."

Former classmates of Harvey described him as a loner and teacher's pet.  He rarely participated in extracurricular activities, opting instead to read books and dream about the future.  Following his graduation from Sturgeon Elementary School, Harvey entered Booneville High School in 1968.  Earning A's and B's in most classes with little effort, he became bored with the daily routine and dropped out.  Having no real goals, Harvey was not sure what he wanted to do with his newfound freedom.  For unknown reasons he eventually decided to relocate to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he secured a job at a local factory.

In 1970 work began to slow at the plant and Harvey was eventually laid off.  His mother called him a few days later and asked him to travel to Kentucky and visit his ailing grandfather, who was recently placed in a hospital there.  Harvey agreed and within days set off for Marymount Hospital in London, Kentucky.  Although no one knew it at the time, this trip would later prove to be the beginning of a long journey into madness and murder.


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