The murder of Michelle Herndon by Oliver O’Quinn initially baffled investigators in Gainesville, Florida. How could a seemingly healthy young woman just suddenly die in her own home without any visible signs of injury?
As the cops began to piece together what happened, the shocking truth of a jealous and murderous nurse came to light. O’Quinn had used his access to medical supplies to poison her because he knew they could never be together.
Michelle was a 24-year-old student at the University of Florida. She was in her final year and had big plans to go into volunteer work and join the Peace Corps after she finished school.
However, her fiance, Jason Doyle, became concerned in November 2005 when he hadn’t heard from her in a couple of days. On November 10, he drove up from southern Florida to make sure she was ok.
Unfortunately, Doyle found his wife-to-be lying facedown on her bed. She had been dead for two days.
Michelle worked as a fitness trainer to pay her way through college, and she always looked after herself with plenty of exercise and healthy food. This made her sudden death all the more baffling.
Michelle Herndon death initially baffled the Gainesville authorities
There were no marks on Michelle’s body, no apparent wounds or bruises. But how she was lying on her stomach with her left arm under her body appeared unnatural. People who are ill or dying tend to lie on their sides or back.Watch the Latest on our YouTube Channel
There were no signs that Michelle had committed suicide, no note or evidence of pills or anything to indicate she had taken her own life. There were also no signs of forced entry or any fingerprints in the home, so the cops didn’t believe it was a home invasion.
The authorities were confused as to what killed this healthy young woman had died. But during an autopsy, a pathologist spotted a clue; a tiny needle mark on her left arm.
Michelle had been injected with something, and judging by the mark on her arm, it was done by a trained medical professional. But Michelle had had no recent treatment that involved receiving an injection. She was then found to have a lethal dose of the anesthetic propofol in her system.
The cops had a breakthrough when they uncovered a syringe and two vials labeled propofol in the community garbage bins near Michelle’s apartment. The medical waste was found in a plastic bag that contained mail from Michelle’s apartment.
Propofol is a fast-acting powerful anesthetic injected by medical professionals. It generally doesn’t appear in toxicology reports, mainly because these reports are not looking for it.
Cops began to suspect Oliver O’Quinn of killing Michelle Herndon
The cops now began to piece together the puzzle. It appeared that someone with medical training had murdered Michelle.
The police then learned that Michelle was friends with Oliver O’Quinn, a nurse at the Shands Hospital on the University of Florida campus. And he was obsessed with her.
The investigators checked phone records and discovered O’Quinn had telephoned Michelle 43 times in one month. And he had called her every day for nine days until the day she was murdered when suddenly the calls stopped.
The killer had been careful not to leave any fingerprints on the syringe, but the investigators were able to extract DNA from the needle cap. The officers realized that medical staff usually held needle caps in their mouths when giving injections, so they attempted a swab, and luckily, they got a sample.
At the end of November, the cops went to question O’Quinn and attain a DNA sample. However, there was a major snag; O’Quinn had fled the country, telling his family he was going on vacation to Ireland.
While in Ireland, O’Quinn showed he had no intention of returning to Florida and even applied to work there as a nurse. The Gainesville detectives immediately initiated extradition proceedings, but unfortunately, the process in Ireland is notoriously slow, and as the months ticked by, the killer was still living in Ireland.
In April 2006, Irish media reported that the Irish police were keeping tabs on O’Quinn, but were unable to arrest him because the extradition process was still ongoing. The killer nurse had been staying at a youth hostel and regularly emailed his family in Tennessee from an internet cafe in Dublin.
The Gainesville detectives had appealed to Irish media to keep the pressure on O’Quinn. They mailed photos of the killer and Michelle to a local newspaper, The Irish Times, which on three separate occasions, printed the images and stated that O’Quinn was wanted for murder in Florida.
Oliver Quinn tried again to escape justice for Michelle Herndon murder
O’Quinn decided to flee again, this time bordering a flight to the west African country of Senegal. However, the Senegalese authorities handed him straight over to American officials, and in October 2006, he was finally brought back to Florida in handcuffs.
In the meantime, the detectives retrieved a DNA sample from O’Quinn and found it matched the sample from the needle cap.
The cops concluded that O’Quinn had been infatuated with Michelle and was angered by her engagement, realizing they could never be together. Rather than get on with his life, the murderer decided that if he couldn’t have Michelle, then no one else could either.
Michelle had suffered regularly from migraines, which led to O’Quinn seeing an opportunity. The killer nurse offered to cure her migraine with an injection. There were no signs of forced entry or a struggle because Michelle had trusted her murderer. He gave her four times the lethal dose.
After the murder, O’Quinn left the apartment through the back, locked the back door, put the syringe and vials in the communal garbage cans, and drove away.
Oliver O’Quinn guilty of the murder of Michelle Herndon
In May 2008, a jury found O’Quinn guilty of first-degree murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
At the sentencing, Judge Peter Seig told O’Quinn, “It is beyond my comprehension how an intelligent mind could conceive of what we’ve heard about this week.”
Seig added, “In this case, you executed Michelle Herndon, and tonight (after the sentencing), I know I will sleep soundly.”
Michelle’s mom, Belinda Herndon, told O’Quinn, “I look at you and see a small, small man. I hope you never feel the pain and devastation that her dad and I do every day, because Michelle is no longer here.”
Belinda’s husband, Donald, declined to give a victim’s impact statement because he couldn’t bear to be in the same room as his daughter’s killer.
Throughout the sentencing and victim statements, O’Quinn watched, stone-faced and emotionless. Belinda later described him as having “dead eyes.” She told the press, “I thought, ‘I’ve never seen such lifeless eyes in my life.'”
Belinda finds comfort in the number of people who come up to her to say Michelle touched their lives. They say, “Michelle’s made me be a better environmentalist. Michelle’s made me be a better person because she makes me be conscientious.”