Ex-nurse guilty plea on 16 murders
By Geoff Mulvihill in Belvidere, New Jersey
A FORMER nurse who pleaded guilty to killing 13 patients in New Jersey today admitted three more slayings - all elderly females given overdoses of the heart drug digoxin.
The additional three patients died in 1993 at Warren Hospital in Phillipsburg, Charles Cullen, 44, said.
Cullen today agreed to a sentence of three life prison terms with no chance of parole for 90 years - over and above the life sentence with no chance of parole for 127 years he received last month after admitting to 13 other patients' deaths.
The three women whom Cullen admitted killing at Warren Hospital were Helen Dean, 91, Lucy Mugavero, 90, and Mary Natoli, 85.
Afterward, Cullen's lawyer said the former nurse would like to explain himself one day to his victims' families.
"He would like to have them sit in a big room and family members could ask questions," said Johnnie Mask, who is defending Cullen.
John Hagerty, a spokesman for the state Division of Criminal Justice, said his agency would probably not object to the unusual forum of a meeting with the families - as long as it came after all the criminal cases against Cullen were settled.
As for victims' families, some of whom never suspected their loved one died at the hands of a nurse, at least one welcomed a chance to find out why.
"I think I would participate in something like that," Phil Mugavero, the grandson of Lucy Mugavero, said.
After Cullen's arrest last year, he told authorities he had killed between 30 and 40 patients during a 16-year career at 10 health care facilities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.