Childhood & Early Life
Charles Edmund Cullen was born on February 22, 1960, in West Orange, New Jersey, to Edmond and Florence. He was the last of eight children of his parents. His father died when Cullen was seven months old. During his childhood, he displayed symptoms of mental instability, and was constantly bullied by his sister’s boyfriend and his schoolmates.
At the age of 9, Cullen committed his first suicide attempt by drinking chemicals. In 1977, his mother was killed in a car accident. This event devastated the already troubled Cullen. He dropped out of high school a year later.
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Career & Murders
After discontinuing his studies, Charles Cullen joined the U.S. Navy. He served on the submarine ‘USS Woodrow Wilson.’ He rose to the rank of petty officer, but was unable to cope with the underwater life. He was often bullied by his colleagues. Cullen was subjected to disciplinary action, when an officer spotted him wearing surgical mask and gloves while doing the control duty of missiles. After being transferred to duty aboard a ship, Cullen attempted suicide. In 1984, he received a medical discharge from the Navy.
Following his exit from the Navy, Cullen joined the ‘Mountainside Hospital School of Nursing’ to learn nursing. In 1986, he graduated from the school. Cullen started his nursing career at the ‘St. Barnabas Medical Center,’ in Livingston. Cullen confessed to murdering several patients while working there. In June 1988, he administered a lethal overdose of medication to a patient. He gave an overdose of insulin to a patient who suffered from AIDS. An investigation into the contaminated IV bags found at the hospital pointed to Cullen as the suspect, but due to lack of evidence, no action was taken against him.
After resigning from his job at the ‘St. Barnabas,’ Charles Cullen joined the ‘Warren Hospital.’ While working there, he murdered three elderly women, by administering an overdose of digoxin. In September 1993, a cancer patient at the hospital complained that Cullen injected her with some medicines, although he was not her assigned nurse. These charges were dismissed, as Cullen passed the lie detector test conducted by the hospital.
Cullen’s next workplace was the ‘Hunterdon Medical Center.’ He confessed to the murder of five patients at the hospital, with an overdose of digoxin. He was treated for depression while he was working at Warren Hospital and Hunterdon Medical Center. Later, he worked with the ‘Liberty Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.’ He was found guilty of the death of one patient there.
In March 1999, Charles Cullen was hired by the ‘Lehigh Valley Hospital.’ He committed one murder, and attempted another, while working there. After resigning from there, Cullen joined the ‘St. Luke’s Hospital,’ in Bethlehem. He murdered five patients, while working at the cardiac care unit of the hospital.
In January 2000, Cullen attempted a suicide. His colleagues at the ‘St. Luke’ grew suspicious when they saw vials of medicines in disposal bags. In June 2002, Cullen was forced to resign. Though seven of his co-workers filed a complaint against Cullen with the district attorney, the case was dropped due to lack of evidence.
In September 2002, Cullen joined the ‘Somerset Medical Center.’ He murdered 13 patients by mid-2003. As the frequency of crimes increased, authorities grew suspicious. An examination of computerized records revealed that Cullen had requested for medications that were not prescribed for his patients. Cullen murdered his last victim in October 2003, where the patient died of low blood sugar.
With the help of a co-worker, Amy Loughren, police collected evidences about the crimes of Cullen. After a month-long investigation, he was arrested in December 2003. The charges were murder of Rev. Florian Gall, and attempted murder of Jin Kyung Han. After his arrest, Cullen confessed to his earlier crimes, totaling forty.
During court proceedings, Charles Cullen agreed to cooperate with authorities on condition that they will refrain from seeking death sentence for his crimes. He stated that he committed the crimes in order to end the suffering of the patients, but investigations showed that all of his victims were not terminal patients. His claims of wanting to save the patients from suffering were refuted by the court. Charles Cullen was found guilty of murders. He is currently serving a life imprisonment without parole for over 100 years.
Family & Personal Life
Charles Cullen was married to Adrianne Baum. After a while into marriage, Cullen’s wife found his behavior very disturbing and sought divorce, which was granted. The court ordered Cullen to bear his child’s expenses.
The case of Charles Cullen revealed the lack of a proper legal framework for reporting suspicious behavior by healthcare workers. Prompted by this case, 35 states in the United Sates enacted laws for ensuring the safety of hospitalized patients.