Prolific Serial Killer Nurse Charles Cullen May Have Killed As Many As 400 Patients

The murderer’s 16-year medical career in New Jersey and Pennsylvania ended after he was arrested in 2003.

Charles Cullen from Bethlehem, Pennslyvania, is seen in a photograph at 43 years old. Cullen has admitted to killing 40 terminally ill patients in nine hospitals and a nursing home.

Charles Cullen's 16-year medical career in New Jersey and Pennsylvania ended after he was arrested in 2003.

Photo by: John Wheeler via Getty Images

John Wheeler via Getty Images

By: Aaron Rasmussen

A nurse who admitted he killed at least 29 patients on the East Coast over his 16-year medical career is destined to die behind bars.

In March 2006, a judge in Somerset County, New Jersey, sentenced Charles Cullen to 11 consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole for 397 years in connection with 29 murders — 22 in New jersey and 7 in Pennsylvania — as well as 6 attempted murders, The New York Times reported.

Cullen, now 62, committed his crimes while working at one nursing home in New Jersey and nine hospitals in Pennsylvania. According to The Times, Cullen often volunteered to work overnight at the facilities and he didn’t discriminate when choosing his victims, who included both sick and recovering patients.

The serial killer would sneak into patients’ rooms and often inject his victims with lethal doses of drug cocktails. When staff grew overly suspicious and Cullen was on the verge of getting caught, he would relocate to a new medical facility and pick up where he left off.

Cullen, who battled depression and alcoholism, was finally arrested in December 2003 after he went on a nearly yearlong killing spree that left 13 patients dead at Somerset Medical Center in New Jersey. According to reports, a computer system at the hospital showed Cullen was accessing medical records of patients he never treated and ordering a bizarre array of drugs that doctors never prescribed. He was also showing up in rooms where he had no reason to be.

As part of a plea deal to avoid the death penalty, Cullen worked with authorities to try to identify all his victims, who he estimated numbered around 40 but investigators believe could actually be as many as 10 times that.

Cullen claimed he blacked out during some of the murders he once said he committed to end his victims’ suffering — though many patients’ health statuses were actually improving before they were found dead. Investigators have never identified a motive for why Cullen committed his crimes.

The mother of Michael Strenko told the court at Cullen’s New Jersey sentencing in 2006 about the pain she lived with after the prolific serial killer nurse murdered the 21-year-old man three years earlier. “[My son would] say, ‘I know what you need, Mom. Mom needs a hug,’” Mary Strenko recalled. “Now, instead of giving him presents, I get to put flowers on his grave.”

Dolores Stasienko was blunt when she got the chance to confront Cullen in court about killing her 89-year-old war veteran dad, Jack Toto: “Burn in hell, Mr. Cullen, for all eternity,” she told the convicted killer she called a “monster.”

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