Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Cullen: Healthcare Serial Killer

The Case Continues

Late in April 2004, Cullen pleaded guilty to murdering thirteen patients in New Jersey and one in Pennsylvania, as well as to the attempted murder of two more patients in his care. It turns out that he tended to kill in clumps, and once there were two victims on a single day. His last murder took place just ten days before he was fired — while he was under investigation by several agencies. These were only the first admissions, and relatives of other potential victims (as well as their lawyers) wondered how many more he would add.

Charles Cullen
Charles Cullen

In May, Cullen added three more murders to his list, all of them elderly women in New Jersey. Helen Dean was among them.

Prosecutors from seven counties had to get together and agree on the details of the plea deal, which is why it took so long for Cullen to make his actions public. Cullen will not be eligible for parole for 127 years, and his admissions set in motion a number of lawsuits that had been poised, pending what he would say.

In the meantime, the Morning Call newspaper in Allentown, Pennsylvania, had sued to make legal papers available that described the details of a year of full of problems in Cullen's sordid life. Once they had the information, it became clear just how Cullen's state of mind affected his decision to kill. Clearly, he was acting out during times of stress and failure.

According to The Morning Call, Cullen was "a suicidal alcoholic whose life was spiraling out of control in the weeks before he gave lethal doses of heart medicine to his first known victim."

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