Charles Cullen, a nurse accused of killing patients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, tried suicide at least three times, did four stints at mental hospitals, broke into a colleague’s house and wanted a doctor prosecuted just for drawing his blood, the New York Times reports.
He was once found wearing surgical scrubs at the missile controls of a nuclear submarine, and he was known in his neighborhood for his nighttime chasing of cats.
And even before the deaths that led to his arrest in December, at least four times in his career as a nurse, people claimed Mr. Cullen might have killed patients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Mr. Cullen, who has told prosecutors he killed perhaps 40 people with intentional drug overdoses, defies the cliché about serial killers: that nobody suspected anything, nobody noticed anything strange. Wherever he went, people found his behavior erratic, suspicious, even criminal.
In hindsight, his life looks like a trail of signal flares, warning of instability and a capacity to harm himself or others. Yet Mr. Cullen was able to go from job to job for a decade after the first homicide accusation, confounding co-workers, government investigators and relatives of patients who died. If his story is true, he is among the most prolific serial killers in American history.