- Charles Cullen, a nurse, said he had killed a lot of patients. Police say he may have hurt more people.
- His 16-year killing spree ended with the help of another nurse who worked in the same ICU.
- She talked to Insider about the murders after she was in a new Netflix documentary about them.
In 2002, Charles Cullen, a nurse at Somerset Medical Center in New Jersey, was one of three employees chosen to be in a marketing campaign for the hospital. The picture of Cullen was right in the middle of the pamphlet.
Cullen’s closest coworker in the ICU, Amy Loughren, said that he liked the attention. The former nurse told Insider, “I used to call him our Somerset spokesmodel.” “He was very proud that they used him in their advertising brochure.”
Charles Cullen was the main person of interest in a series of deaths that happened in hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that didn’t make sense. When they died, he was taking care of the patients, who ranged in age from their early 20s to their late 90s.
The Netflix documentary “Capturing the Killer Nurse,” which came out this month, talks about Loughren, a mother of two who now runs a spiritual healing business. The movie tells the story of the hospital serial killer and asks how he killed dozens or even hundreds of patients over the course of 16 years without getting caught.
Loughren and Cullen Became Friendly when They Worked in An ICU
Tim Travis Hawkins, who directed the movie, told Insider that the killer, who he called “normal and quiet,” wanted to be famous. He told Cullen that his life right now was “boring.” Hawkins said, “He seems to me like a very childish man who thinks he has a lot of rights.”
“His biggest act of cowardice was not saying anything when the families of the victims confronted him in court.” Loughren met Cullen for the first time in 2002 when Cullen started working in Somerset’s critical-care unit.
She said, “He always acted very thoughtfully and spoke very softly. He never ever raised his voice.” Loughren, who was in charge of Cullen and the other nurses on the team, told Insider that the friends always looked out for each other.
She said that once, an older woman with a broken pacemaker was taken to the ICU. “She was a really beautiful woman,” she said. On her chart, the nurses had written that she had an allergy to lidocaine.
A few days later, when Loughren went into her room, Cullen was standing next to her bed holding a syringe. He gave the painkiller to the woman through an IV. Loughren said, “I saw on the monitor that she was going into cardiac arrest, so I yelled “Code Blue” down the hallway.”
The staff did CPR to try to save her life, but she was declared dead. Loughren said that the attending doctor told the team that they did a “poor code.” She said the doctor yelled, “Who the hell gave her lidocaine?”
Loughren Said that She Never Thought Anything Was Wrong
Cullen told Loughren how grateful he was that he had a job. She said she thought it was an honest mistake. Cullen spent a total of nine months working at Somerset. Loughren told Insider, “I knew that there were a lot more codes in that ICU than in other ICUs I had worked in.”
“But I didn’t have any doubts. I thought, “These people are sick, and things have just gotten worse for them.” In July 2003, at least four suspicious overdoses were found in Somerset by the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System.
It told the people in charge of the hospital that a worker might be killing patients. The hospital had already started to look into problems with the way it gave out drugs. Computer records showed that Cullen had been asking for medicines that no one had given him for a long time.
But he stayed for three more months. In October 2003, he was fired. Loughren said that people didn’t understand why he was fired. “We didn’t know what was going on,” she said. She didn’t know anything was wrong until detectives came to the ICU to talk to the staff.
“At first, I thought they were trying to blame Charlie for something, like stealing drugs,” said Loughren. “I didn’t think that there might be something worse going on.” But when the police showed her the evidence, like Cullen’s strange requests for certain medications,
she knew “something really, really bad was going on.” Loughren said that the detectives told her they thought Cullen had killed many patients “not just at Somerset, but at four other hospitals as well.”
Loughren Said that When She Asked Cullen About the Murders, He Looked Proud
Loughren told Insider that she was stunned and couldn’t believe what had happened. “I didn’t want to believe that my life was so messed up that I was close friends with a monster,” she said. Loughren agreed to wear a wire to try to get Cullen to admit to the crimes. At a restaurant, she met him.
Loughren said that journalists knew at this point that Cullen was thought to have “hurt people at the hospital.” She sat at the table with her former coworker as he proudly pointed to the reports in the papers. “I said, ‘I’m not stupid. “I know you’re wrong,” “Loughren said.
“Let’s go with each other to the police station. I’ll stick close by. I really care about you.” She said that at that moment, Cullen “became someone else.” “He was proud, but I had never seen so much emptiness in his eyes before,” she said. He was taken into custody, and at the police station, he finally admitted his guilt.
He was left alone in an interview room with Loughren. She told Cullen that she was afraid that because she knew him so well, she might be blamed for his crimes. Loughren told Insider that a lot of her anger was at herself for not protecting the patients.
Loughren Was Angry that Hospital Bosses Let Cullen Move from Job to Job
Detectives found that Cullen had killed at least 29 people, including the person who died from taking lidocaine. In prison, he has said he did 20 more crimes. “Capturing the Killer Nurse,” says that the number of deaths could be in the hundreds.
“No one will ever know for sure,” said Hawkins, who was in charge of the movie. Pathologists found that most of the drugs Cullen used to kill his victims were insulin, digoxin, and epinephrine, which are used to treat allergies.
The latter can make the heart beat funny and cause fluid to build up in the lungs. When people found out that the man who killed Cullen had done it in five hospitals where he worked, they were very angry.
Investigators found that some of the places where Cullen worked had ignored claims by his coworkers and the families of people who had died that he was responsible for those deaths. One hospital let him go, but as part of the deal, they agreed to give him a “neutral” reference.
Loughren said that she agrees with the judge’s decision to give Cullen 18 life sentences in a row. She said, “I know that my friend Charlie is where he needs to be.” She said, “I know that what I did to bring him to justice was the right thing to do.”