Cullen admitted to killing up to 40 victims and was given 11 life sentences; it was his nursing colleague’s “amazing” bravery that helped bring him to justice.
Nobody could have predicted the crimes that would soon come to light after the unexpected deaths of two patients at a hospital in New Jersey.
Amy Loughren, the subject of the recent Netflix film The Good Nurse, was a pivotal figure in the inquiry and would play a crucial role in disclosing the horrific truth about Charles Cullen, a coworker she referred to as a friend.
Cullen, the youngest of eight children, was born in New Jersey in 1960.
Before Cullen turned one year old, his bus driver father passed away, and while he was a teenager, his homemaker mother was killed in a vehicle accident.
His initial killings
Cullen eventually decided to become a nurse, finishing nursing school in 1987 before getting married. This was after what has been widely described as a horrible childhood, a brief tour in the Navy, and multiple purported suicide attempts.
Before divorcing in 1993, Cullen and his wife had two daughters together.
Cullen is thought to have murdered his first victims during that period.
Cullen later worked at a number of hospitals and care homes. He left some employment after investigations into complaints of wrongdoing, including one where an elderly woman reported he repeatedly entered her room and administered injections even though he wasn’t the nurse assigned to care for her.
He was sacked from one hospital for hiding cardiac medicine in a bin designated for disposing needles.
He would bounce from several medical clinics in New Jersey and even worked for a period in Pennsylvania after gaining a license to operate there.
His preferred weapon: digoxin
He held a few full-time jobs and performed some agency work between 1998 and 2002.
He is thought to have killed even more people during this time.
The drug digoxin, which is frequently used to treat persons with irregular heartbeats or heart failure but is fatal in big quantities, was his prescription of choice.
His offenses were performed over a 16-year period, but all came to light in 2003 while he was employed at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, New Jersey.
The hospital was treating Florian Gall, a reverend.
During his treatment, Gall began to show signs of progress before passing away after a severe heart attack.
He admitted to giving narcotic overdoses to his “extremely sick” patients in order to end their suffering, according to investigators.
He acknowledged between 30 and 40 killings, but the actual total is believed to be closer to 400, making him the most prolific serial murderer in US history.
The relationship that would eventually ruin him
Cullen and Loughren became friends while working at the hospital which would be his final one.
He appeared to her to be a good man whom she wished to get to know and be friends with.
But it was Loughren, who was hailed as “courageous” and “amazing,” who assisted investigators in compiling their case.
The cardiomyopathy patient and single mother were working night shifts in a New Jersey hospital to maintain her eligibility for health insurance when the ostensibly highly skilled Cullen was hired to assist with workload management.
The two become close quite fast, with Cullen even assisting Loughren in caring for her two small girls and masking her illness.
But detectives started to suspect Cullen when two patients died suddenly.
She had earlier claimed that she “knew he was murdering people” when they provided her the documentation that indicated the medications Cullen was ordering.
She had previously told CBS that “there were so many withdrawals of fatal drugs” that you wouldn’t order unless you wanted to murder someone.
At the hospital, she started gathering proof, and when they met, she was wearing a wire. She also acknowledges that she tried to coerce him into making a confession.
Jessica Chastain portrays Loughren in The Good Nurse, while Eddie Redmayne plays Cullen.
Now that she has spoken to Sky News, the former nurse.
Although it served as a “trigger” for a lot of the time she spent with Cullen, she said she was “happy” to watch the film come together.
Said Loughren: “Every day I was very nervous, but I managed to keep it together.
“I was actually a lot worse than I let on in the movie, and I was genuinely afraid about leaving my two daughters behind.
“I allowed myself to feel pleased of myself watching Jessica portray me.”
“My regret that I missed my friendship with him, for he is a monster.”
“Watching Charlie (played by Redmayne) was upsetting because Eddie perfectly captures the character of my friend Charlie.
“His movements, his speech, and our interactions all have a really genuine quality to them. That particular passage was very upsetting.
“And accepting my guilt at truly missing our friendship because he’s a monster, as well as the fact that I missed him for a while.
“But I was unaware of the murderer. The murderer, who I only encountered a few times, played the role of my buddy.
“It was quite upsetting because I missed that friendship. Then it was “let’s get him” time.”
It “was ludicrous at first” to make a movie.
The relationship between the single mother and Cullen was deemed to be the most “compelling” aspect of the story by moviemakers.
“It was funny at first because I’m thinking how would anybody really want to see a film? “, continued Loughren, who retired 18 months ago. And really, (the probe) only played a little role.
“Darren Aronofsky chose it first and made the decision to adapt it into a film.
He claimed that the camaraderie was what made Charles Graeber’s incredibly great book so compelling to him.
“Something that truly made me feel guilty and uncomfortable was suddenly going to be shown on a large screen.
“I wasn’t really sure how I was feeling. Nobody should have known who I was 20 years ago, I thought.
“I didn’t want someone to judge me based on who I was 20 years ago.
It was horrible. At first, I didn’t want my name on it. Then I came to the realization that because it’s going to happen whether or not I do, I might as well speak up.
When Chastain initially spoke with Loughren on a Zoom conversation, she learned how difficult the former nurse’s life was.
‘What she encounters is extremely frightening’
As she stated to Sky News: “It really helped me realize how brave Amy was and what a great person she is to be able to talk to her and understand what her life was like and what was at stake.
“All the things she was simultaneously juggling. Being a single mother of two girls, being uninsured, working the night shift, and not getting enough sleep are all disadvantages.
“At the same time, I also require a heart transplant. At the start of this movie, that is all we have.
The situation she suddenly finds herself in is rather disturbing.
Tobias Lindholm, the film’s director, praised the narrative for emphasizing “an industrious woman whose superpower was her humanity.”
The script, he continued, “mirrored Charles Graeber’s book somewhat more precisely in that it centered on the killer, but what I felt to be most compelling about this story was Amy Loughren’s role in it.”
The Good Nurse is available on Netflix and in UK theaters.