What you need to know

  • Charles Cullen admitted to killing 29 victims but is believed to have killed more than 300 hospital patients while working as a nurse in New Jersey and Pennsylvania
  • The Good Nurse, which debuted on Netflix, is based heavily on Charles Graeber’s 2013 crime novel The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness and Murder.
  • The film also scrutinizes the system that allowed Cullen, his nursing licenses current in two states and unblemished, to continue working at nine hospitals, leaving a trail of corpses in his wake at each.

Charles Cullen is considered by some to be the most prolific serial killer in American history.

The New Jersey native is the latest person to grace Netflix’s new movie The Good Nurse. Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain play Cullen and Amy Lauren, a close friend and colleague who helped the police close their case.

Cullen eventually confessed to killing 29 victims, but is believed to have killed more than 300 hospital patients while working as a nurse in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“The Good Nurse” takes a close look at the system that allowed Cullen, with a renewed nurse’s license in two states and an unblemished record, to continue working at nine hospitals, leaving a trail of corpses in her wake at each.

When you finish the movie, you’re sure to be left with questions about one of New Jersey’s biggest killers in recent memory. Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions and watch the official trailer below.

Who is Charles Cullen?

Cullen, the youngest of eight siblings, was a dedicated student and — in 1984 — the only boy in his class at Mountainside Hospital School of Nursing in Montclair, New Jersey, according to Charles Graeber’s 2013 book (and source material for the movie 2022 “The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder.” The Navy veteran was even elected class president.

He met his future wife, Adrianne Baum, while working at Roy Rogers, one of the few part-time jobs he kept to pay for college. Cullen proposed six months after their first date, and they tied the knot a week after he graduated from nursing school. They cut their honeymoon to Niagara Falls short by a day so he could report to work in the burn unit at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey, on June 11, 1987.

Cullen and Baum welcomed a daughter, Shawna, in 1988, and according to Graeber’s book, he turned his full attention to the child “as if he couldn’t expand the focus of his affections to include both.” Baum came home one day to find that Cullen had taken a pair of scissors and had cut out the little boys from photos she had taken of Shawna with her friends at kindergarten. A few days later, the neighbor’s old beagle, who frequented their yard, was found dead—poisoned, the vet said—in an alley near their house.

Baum has already told some friends that she is beginning to suspect that something is “seriously wrong” with Charlie.

How did Charles Cullen finally get caught?

After stops at Morristown Memorial Hospital (fired for poor performance); Liberty Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania (fired after entering a resident’s room with syringes, leaving the resident with a broken arm); Easton Hospital, also in Pennsylvania (internal investigation into suspicious death due to digoxin inconclusive); Lehigh Valley–Cedar Crest Hospital in Allentown (voluntarily resigned); St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (suspected of drug theft, given opportunity to resign; state pathologist called to investigate 69 patient deaths but unable to confirm pattern); and Sacred Heart in Allentown (fired after 16 days for not getting along with fellow nurses), Cullen landed at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, New Jersey, in September 2002.

The following July, a pharmacist’s assistant contacted the New Jersey Poison Information System after a series of suspicious deaths, respectively, due to digoxin and insulin overdoses on the same ward. In October 2003, on the recommendation of toxicology officials, Somerset officials finally contacted the New Jersey State Police.

“Obviously it was brought to the fore by an outside entity that refused to allow this internal process to continue to drag on,” Graeber told NPR in 2013. “And it’s scary to think about what would have happened if [Dr. Bruce Ruck and his boss, Dr. Steven Marcus, at poison control] didn’t push it.”

Adept with technology, Cullen used the computerized Pyxis MedStation, designed to make medication tracking and verification more streamlined and secure, to his advantage. According to Graeber’s book, authorities eventually saw a pattern: Cullen canceled many of his own orders, realizing that when he ordered but quickly canceled, the drawer would open but there would be no computer record of the drug being removed. Realizing the investigators were onto him, he changed his method, instead ordering a suspicious amount of acetaminophen (Tylenol) — which his friend and fellow nurse, Amy Laughren, soon realized shared a drawer with digoxin.

After interviewing many hospital employees, authorities brought in Loughren to help analyze records of Cullen’s drug orders. She also wondered why the ICU nurse was purchasing substances needed more in the cardiology wing, and the combination of drugs he was ordering was suspicious. He also accessed other nurses’ patient charts.

“Never turn to me in a crisis – everything will end in tears!” Eddie Redmayne tries to play a bad nurse alongside Jessica Chastain in their new movie The Good Nurse.

How many people did Charles Cullen kill?

After his arrest, in addition to admitting to the charges, Cullen told a detective that he had killed 12 to 15 patients, explaining that he had administered lethal doses of digoxin to end their pain and suffering.

At an initial hearing a few days later, where bail was set at $1 million, he told a judge: “I’m going to plead guilty. I’m not going to fight it.” By then, he told investigators he had caused the deaths of 30 to 40 people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Prosecutor Wayne J. Forrest called the case against Cullen “to date the largest homicide investigation in Somerset County” and possibly the state. Investigators said the number of Cullen’s victims could be closer to 400, but without his confirmation, the majority would be impossible to prove in court.

In all, the case spanned several counties, multiple exhumations of remains, and months of trials.

Cullen finally pleaded guilty in 2005 to 29 counts of murder committed between 1988 and 2003 in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as six counts of attempted murder. Somerset County Superior Court Judge Paul W. Parker sentenced him in March 2006 to 11 consecutive life terms for 22 murders in New Jersey.

“The scale of your crime warrants the maximum deterrent the law allows,” the judge said. When given an opportunity to speak, Cullen said he had nothing to say. He reportedly appeared motionless during much of the hearing, with his eyes closed for much of the time.

Many members of the families of the dead appeared in courthowever, with Reverend Gall’s sister, also a nurse, telling Cullen: “We are taught to care for others and you have violated the trust placed in our profession.”

His second victim’s granddaughter, Mary Natoli, told him: “I want you dead tomorrow.”

Thomas Strenka, whose son Michael was 21 when he died from a lethal injection of norepinephrine while recovering from a splenectomy, said: “For someone to jump from hospital to hospital with these problems for over 15 years is beyond belief. We are outraged that no one stopped Charles Cullen from killing my son.’

Cullen was subsequently given seven more life sentences in Pennsylvania.

Where is Charles Cullen now?

Cullen, now 62, is serving time at the maximum security prison in Trenton, New Jersey.

Interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes in 2013, he was asked about his reluctance to call what he did murder, even though he admitted to being the cause of all those deaths.

“I think I had a lot of trouble accepting that word for a long time,” Cullen said. “I accept that it is.”

Did he consider himself a serial killer?

“I mean, I guess it depends on a person’s definition,” he said. “If it’s more than one and it’s a pattern, I guess so.”

Where is Amy Laughren now?

“The person I am today is not like the woman you see on the screen – I’m 20 years wiser and more confident,” said 57-year-old Lauren Glamor UK, comparing her memory of herself to Chastain’s portrayal in The Good Nurse. “I’m a much better version of myself than I was then. Jessica offered a tenderness to that 20-year-old persona that I didn’t know I had, and to me that was one of the most beautiful things she brought to the game.”

She recalled that she visited Cullen several times in prison, but he stopped responding to her letters once he learned she was cooperating with prosecutors.

“I think I wanted to deny that he was a mercy killer, I wanted to make sure that whoever my friend Charlie was, he was gone,” she said. “I didn’t get the answers I wanted, but I was able to see how charismatic he was and how easy it was to draw him in. It was a process of being able to forgive myself for not seeing it.

“I knew this monster should be behind bars, but I also put my friend Charlie behind bars.”

Watching the film, Lauren said, helped her get over the trauma of the experience once and for all.

“It’s just not in my nature to betray one of my friends, but of course I knew I had to,” she said. told People. “What I love about nursing is that I’ve been able to protect the vulnerable – and I’m a bad nurse.”

The Good Nurse is streaming on Netflix.