Over a course of sixteen years registered nurse Charles Cullen amassed dozens of complaints and disciplinary citations, was the prime suspect in four police investigations, taken two lie dector test, attempted suicide over twenty times, had multiple stays in various psychiatric wards, worked for nine separate hospitals and nursing homes, and claimed up to or perhaps over four hundred victims.
Charles Cullen’s horrible childhood
They say hindsight is 20/20 which could not be any more truthful in looking at what made Cullen the most prolific angel of death in history. Charles Cullen was born in West Orange, New Jersey, on February 22, 1960, the last of 8 siblings born into abject poverty and extreme dysfunction. Charlie was only 7 months when his father died suddenly, but was sure to let him know that he was a “pregnancy mistake” from the start.
His older brothers battled heavy drug addictions and his sisters drifted in and out of pregnacies with multiple men. Fed up with living with some of the abusive boyfriends, Charlie attempted to poison one by mixing lighter fluid in his cocktail. Some sources even claim that Charles Cullen laced the punchbowl at a highschool party with rat poison, luckily there were no victims. Signs of things to come.
Despite the horrendous family upbringing, Charlie was considered a bright kid, reading several works of Dostoyevsky at age 15, his favorite being Crime and Punishment, which portrays the protagonist battling his own demons while murdering several people. More signs of things to come.
Charlie attempted suicide at least once and at the age of nine. From his own accounts he claimed to have mixed several chemicals together in a chemistry set before injesting them. If things couldn’t get any worse in Charlie’s life, lo and behold his mother was killed in a fatal car crash when he was seventeen. Charlie’s mother, being the only anchor in his life at the time and ripped away so suddenly, sank the teen into another deep depression in which he never recovered. Cullen blamed the hospital for not allowing him to let him see his mother’s body and even for not saving her life. That hospital was Mountainside, and Charlie decided this location is also where he wanted to eventually earn his nursing degree.
Cullen did serve a stint in the Navy aboard the USS Woodrow Wilson where he was assigned to guarding nuclear missles. Charlie tells media that during his time in service is when he first learned to fake suicide attempts, which he often did with excess alchol. The torrents of bullying and abuse Charlie “Fishbelly” received from his shipmates steadily increased as he served his time in the Navy.
Marrying a Murderer
Most graduating nurses do not start their careers off by working in a burn center, but for some reason Charlie ended up at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. His job was to clean and was burn victims lying on a metal gurney. According to The Good Nurse, by author Charles Graeber, Charlie’s job was to “scrape and was away the charred, necrotic skin with antibacterial soap.”
Despite his gruesome job working burn patients at one many nurses called the “scream ward”, 1987 was one of the happiest years of his life. Charlie met and married Adrienne Taub, a computer programmer and soon-to-be mother of his two daughters. However his wife started to notice some changes in her husband. That Charlie was treating her like one of his patients. The living can’t compete with the dead. On June 11, 1988 Charles Cullen supposedly kills his first patient, a seventy-two year old former judge John Yengo. The weapon used: Lidocaine.
Adrenne can no longer tolerate her husband’s lack of interest in his family. She would later tell the divorce judge that Charlie would leave his baby daughter in the house alone with a “liquid babysitter” – medicine that makes them sleep – and the few times he was home he would be down in the dark basement drinking heavily and sulking over the bad life cards he was dealt.
“Excellent team player”
Over sixteen years Charles Cullen jumped around working at nine separate hospitals and one nursing home. Although perhaps all of these hospitals knew that Cullen was a danger to the health of patients, they did nothing but push him out to another hospital. Furthermore, Charlie never received any negative references, but instead given the ultimatum of quitting and receiving neutral remarks. This allowed the serial killer to work at separate hospitals, often back to back, collecting large sign up bonuses, increase pay, and collecting more victims.
Charlie used Digoxin, a heart medication, to kill most of his patients. Digoxin is used to slow down heart rhythms, but when used as a weapon can put patients in intense pain, suffering, and eventual death. Charlie would usually inject the fatal doses through the patients IV bags although sometime he would be brazen enough to directly stick the victim when the families or other nurses were not around. Hospitals at this time, and currently, use the Pyxis MedStation to dispense the proper amount of medications to each provider. Charlie soon figured out how to game this system to receive most of his medications without being immediately noticed.
Charles Cullen is currently serving multiple life sentences after pleading guilty to several murders to avoid the death penalty.