60 Minutes: Angel of Death
60 Minutes continued a two-part exploration of serial murderer Charles Cullen, a nurse. In September 2002, he got a new job at Somerset Medical Center in New Jersey. This would be his last job.
60 Minutes: Charles Cullen Priest Murder
The Somerset team had no idea about the nurse’s murderous past. During his short time there, he killed approximately one patient per month, and attempted three more murders, before things finally caught up with him after 16 years.
Did Charles Cullen want to get caught? He said he does not know. He was careful, he claims, and denied anything he was pressed on. Florian Gall, a Roman Catholic priest, was the victim that started to tip the scale for Cullen.
60 Minutes: Somerset Digoxin Overdose
Gall’s death was the second unexplained Digoxin overdose in just two weeks at the hospital. Digoxin was Cullen’s drug of choice. Dr Stephen Marcus found the blood levels astronomical. Marcus works at New Jersey poison control.
A Somerset pharmacist raised some red flags for Marcus. By July 2003, he conferenced with the hospital’s medical director, recording the conversation and playing the tape a decade later for 60 Minutes.
Dr William Cors from Somerset told Dr Marcus in that phone conversation that they were conducting an internal investigation and did not want to cause undue alarm.
60 Minutes: Dr Stephen Marcus Investigation
Three months later, Somerset finally got law enforcement involved. In that time, at least five more patients were killed. Dr Marcus was visibly upset in recalling the lives that could have been saved by earlier intervention.
In October 2003, detectives met with hospital officials about the suspicious cases. Investigators told 60 Minutes that the hospital had provided them two names as a result of their internal investigation.
A background check of Cullen turned up some information that raised suspicions in Pennsylvania. With just two phone calls, the detectives knew they were onto something.
60 Minutes: New Jersey Nurse Investigation
Detectives said the hospital only cooperated via subpoenas, stonewalling the investigators in the early going. As they dug deeper, the hospital finally cut Cullen loose, supposedly for lying on his job application.
Cullen told 60 Minutes he had no idea that they were onto him, even when he was let go. He thinks they did not act in the best interest of patients by not firing him sooner.
Meanwhile, New Jersey detectives had to find a way inside. They teamed up with Amy Ridgway, who worked with Cullen in the critical care unit.
60 Minutes: Nurse Amy Ridgway
Ridgway was at first resistant to the investigators’ questions and accusations. But then they showed her some of the evidence they had amassed so far, including probes into his background.
Finally, the nurse agreed to cooperate with the investigation. She talked with Steve Kroft about the moment when she saw the records implicating Cullen in the murder of patients. Amy knew this could not be a coincidence.
“I was sad for my patients. So many things were going through my mind. I was sad I didn’t see it,” she said. “I felt betrayed by my own intuition.”
60 Minutes: Charles Cullen Investigation
Amy cooperated with the investigation and was instrumental in getting Cullen to talk with 60 Minutes. She also recorded her phone conversations with him during the investigation, and wore a wire to meet with him at a restaurant.
When she confronted him at the restaurant, she said his demeanor changed. According to Cullen, he believed she was working with the police.
Charles Cullen was arrested, mostly on the amassed circumstantial evidence. Amy once again had to play a part, helping to manipulate a confession out of Cullen. She recalled telling him that investigators thought she was in on the murders.
60 Minutes: Charles Cullen Confession
In a videotaped formal confession, Cullen spent seven hours going over his crimes. Then author Charles Graeber spent seven years poring over the 16 years of patients for a book, The Good Nurse.
Based on his extensive research, Graeber suspected that the actual death toll at Cullen’s hand is in the “multiple hundreds.”
Cullen says now that he knew what he was doing was wrong. He said he is sorry, “but I don’t know if I would have stopped.”