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Former nurse Charles Cullen killed at least 22 patients before he was caught. So, how was his killing spree finally stopped?
Cullen, known as the Angel of Death, confessed to killing more than 40 patients in 2004, claiming that he acted mercifully, according to the New York Times. He had pleaded guilty to killing 29 patients by injecting their IV bags with fatal doses of drugs at hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In 2006, he was convicted of 22 murders and three attempted murders and was ultimately sentenced to 11 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole. It’s been theorized that his actual victim count could be in the hundreds.
“The Good Nurse,” which recently began streaming on Netflix, follows his friendship with fellow nurse Amy Loughren, who ultimately helped bring him down.
Cullen was fired from multiple jobs, was placed in multiple psychiatric hospitalizations and skirted four suspicious death investigations before his actions were successfully investigated, the New York Times reported in 2004.
It all began when Detectives Tim Braun and Danny Baldwin recruited Loughren in 2003 to help them gain access to evidence that could lead to Cullen's arrest. There had been a sudden increase of suspicious deaths at Somerset Medical Center in 2003, and this led investigators to suspect Cullen. As “The Good Nurse” shows, they approached Loughren, who was possibly Cullen’s only friend.
The two detectives were approached in 2003 after the "Somerset Medical Center contacted the county prosecutor’s office concerning several unexplained deaths,” according to a 2004 press release by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
The pair, then lead detectives, learned that “hospital administrators had long suspected that a staff member was responsible for the deaths as all the victims had been killed by lethal injection of prescription medications.”
However, an internal hospital investigation had not yet identified the culprit.
From there, Detective Sergeant Braun and Detective Daniel Baldwin began to suspect Cullen, then a 43-year-old registered nurse, seeing as he had “worked at nine different medical facilities throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, never at one for any significant length of time.”
The press release added, “The case against Charles Cullen grew as the detectives discovered that at each facility an inordinate number of unexplained deaths had been recorded. Furthermore, 67% of the deaths occurred in the Critical Care units during the midnight shift when Charles Cullen was on duty.”
The two detectives then investigated the hospital’s automated medication system to confirm that Cullen had been removing unauthorized medications “at an alarming rate,” according to the press release. One such medication was Digoxin, the same drug which had killed at least one victim at that hospital.
Eventually, Loughren would confront Cullen about the alleged killings, and he would claim to have killed 15 victims at the hospital where he worked with Loughren alone.
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