Skip to comments.As victims' families rail, killer nurse refuses to watch, answer
Posted on 03/03/2006 3:55:48 PM PST by Graybeard58
SOMERVILLE, N.J. -- Charles Cullen's eyes were shut tight as relatives of some of his victims made sure he knew what he had taken from them -- and what they thought of him.
They called him "one pathetic little man," "an agent from the deepest depths of hell" and "the monster."
The gaunt nurse, who has admitted killing at least 29 patients with drug injections in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, seemed unmoved Thursday during a sentencing hearing where he received 11 consecutive life terms and came face-to-face with his victims' families for the first time.
Relatives wept and yelled at him from a lectern about 15 feet from where he sat slightly slouched, wearing a black sweater over a bulletproof vest.
After refusing to look at those testifying, Cullen was given a chance to speak, to attempt an explanation or even an apology.
"I have nothing to say," Cullen said quietly. A surprised Superior Court Judge Paul W. Armstrong asked him why, but could get nothing further from the defendant, other than an acknowledgment that he could hear the question.
Cullen pleaded guilty in 22 murders and three attempted murders in New Jersey that he committed between 1988 and 2003, as well as seven murders and three attempted murders in Pennsylvania, where he is to be sentenced March 10.
On Thursday, relatives were forceful as they detailed to Cullen how he had hurt them.
"Sometimes, he probably believed he was an angel of mercy," said Dolores Stasienko, whose father, Giacomino J. Toto, was among the victims. "Let us correct him: He was an agent from the deepest depths of hell."
Mary Strenko said she was fired from her job because she was too sleep-deprived and disoriented after her 21-year-old son Michael was killed. "I walk around with a hole in my heart," she said.
John Shanagher, whose father was murdered, said his family "will never feel safe in a hospital again. We will never feel we can trust the medical profession again."
Lucille Gall had come to terms with the 2003 death of her brother, the Very Rev. Florian Gall, when she thought he had died naturally. When there was evidence he was killed, his body was exhumed. And the reburial, she said, was far more painful.
"I just couldn't believe this had happened. This isn't TV," she said. "This is real life. This isn't supposed to happen."
Some of the speakers were flustered that Cullen kept his eyes shut.
"Are you counting sheep? Are you singing the alphabet?" asked Debra Yetter Medina, whose grandmother Mary Natoli was among those killed.
"In case you forgot what my mother looked like, look into my eyes. You'll see the same eyes," Richard J. Stoecker, son of victim Eleanor Stoecker, told Cullen.
"You don't even have the guts to look this way, do you?" Stoecker said. "It's a shame."
Cullen had resisted appearing at his sentencing, but Armstrong ordered him to show up.
Cullen's public defender, Johnnie Mask Jr., said his client had offered to explain himself nearly two years ago -- but only on his terms. Mask said after Friday's sentencing that Cullen had been willing to meet with families out of the eyes of the media. With the help of medical files, Mask said, Cullen could explain why he killed each victim.
Mask disagreed with families and authorities' contention that they still want an explanation from his client.
"They don't want to talk to him," Mask said. "They really don't."
Cullen was arrested in December 2003 after officials at Somerset Medical Center noticed that several people who died there or nearly died had unusual levels of the heart medication digoxin in their systems. He told authorities then that his killings were out of mercy, but younger, healthier victims discovered later belied that explanation.
Cullen agreed to help investigators solve his killings. In exchange, prosecutors in all seven counties where he worked agreed not to seek the death penalty.
Because of the frailties of his memory and imprecise -- and in some cases, destroyed -- medical records, it is unclear whether authorities have identified all of his victims. Investigations remain open in two New Jersey counties.
Essex County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Norman Menz told Armstrong that after several meetings with Cullen, he still had no inkling of his motive.
David Agoada, the son of Frances Agoada, whom Cullen attempted to kill, begged Cullen to explain his actions.
"Mr. Cullen, you still have something good to do with your life," said Agoada, a physician. "Tell us how you did this, how you killed all these people."
Twenty lawsuits have been filed against the facilities where Cullen worked.
In other similar cases around the country, nurse's aide Donald Harvey pleaded guilty in 1987 to at least 34 murders in Ohio and Kentucky and was sentenced to life in prison, and coronary-care nurse Robert Diaz was convicted in 1984 of killing 12 elderly patients in California with lethal doses of heart drugs.
I prefer giving him a torture penalty.
Why don't we have that anymore?
He will explain himself, but only on his terms? Cullen obviously delights in wielding power to harm others: first his victims, then their families.
Mask disagreed with families and authorities' contention that they still want an explanation from his client. . . . . "They don't want to talk to him," Mask said. "They really don't."
Stick to ambulance chasing, Mr. Mask.
They need to renege on no death penalty and fry his ass.
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