How did Charles Cullen get caught? Amy Loughren’s role

Charles Cullen

In The Good Nurse, Charles Cullen and Amy Loughren’s friendship is portrayed almost as accurately as it was in real life. Amy told Sky News that she felt guilty about missing her friendship with Cullen, but she was proud of her role in arresting and convicting the serial murderer. She said:

“That part of it was extremely triggering. And allowing myself to understand that I missed him for a while – and my guilt about actually missing my friendship, because he is a monster. I missed that friendship, so it was very triggering. And then it was like, ‘let’s get him.’”

The investigation into Charles started when two detectives looked into suspicious patient deaths

Charles Cullen
TONY KURDZUK/AP/Shutterstock

Detectives Danny Baldwin and Tim Braun didn’t know they were about to uncover the crimes of a prolific serial murderer when they started investigating a series of unnatural patient deaths in Somerset Medical Center. 

Baldwin and Braun discovered that a Somerset lawyer and the institution’s risk manager had interviewed Charles as part of an internal investigation into the deaths. The detectives found that digoxin, a heart disease medication, was detected in a patient’s dead body at a previous hospital where Charles worked. 

The investigators suspected Charles of having something to do with the murders, but they didn’t have enough evidence. That’s when they involved Amy Loughren, Charles’s close friend, in the investigation. When they showed Amy records of the drugs Charles had withdrawn from the system, she realized Charles was guilty of the murders. 

“There were so many withdrawals of lethal medications that you wouldn’t order unless you wanted to kill someone,” Loughren told CBS.

Charles Graeber writes in The Good Nurse that Amy explained to the officers that Cullen’s withdrawal of vast amounts of digoxin didn’t make sense. The investigators connected the digoxin Cullen withdrew to the digoxin found in the dead patients. 

Hospital computer records exposed Cullen’s sophistication: he injected lethal doses into IV bags before they went out to patients. Other nurses, unaware that the IV bags were contaminated, would administer them to patients, leading to their deaths. “He wouldn’t need to be present for the death to feel the impact,” Graeber wrote. 

Amy also remembered when she bumped into Cullen administering unusual medication to a patient. She told

“But again, I didn’t make that leap from, ‘Gee, that’s an odd choice’ to ‘Maybe he’s murdering someone.’ I just thought that because he was so brilliant, he had to have had a good reason. And so I actually doubted myself in questioning him.”

Amy Loughren helped draw a confession from Charles Cullen

Amy Loughren
Amy Loughren | Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Loughren initially saw Cullen as a kind and brilliant man she could bond with. She suffered from a medical condition that made working difficult, and Cullen often helped her out. “I had a relationship with him that was very fun, very funny,” Amy said. “He was one of the closest people to me.”

After discovering that Charles was a murderer in disguise, she decided to help take him down. She saw nothing merciful in Cullen’s actions, though he insisted that he took patients’ lives to ease their pain. She said:

“When I was 100% certain that he was not a mercy killer, that he was a cold-blooded murderer, I had to get past my own terror and my own fear that he might actually murder me or murder my children.”

Loughren felt guilty for failing to identify Cullen’s depravity earlier. Despite feeling terrified, she agreed to record a meeting between her and Cullen. The police hoped that Amy would convince him to confess to the murders. 

However, Charles refused to admit he was responsible for the deaths. Regardless, the police had enough evidence to warrant a probable cause arrest. Cullen declined to talk, so investigators asked for Amy’s help again. Loughren told 60 Minutes that she manipulated Cullen into confessing:

“I told him the investigators were also looking at me, and how could he think that I wasn’t somehow going to be implicated? I remember saying to him, ‘So, who was your first victim? And was it a long time ago? Was it recent?’ And he started to talk.”

Cullen didn’t know Loughren assisted in the investigation; he learned of her involvement following the release of Graeber’s novel. Charles stopped communicating with Amy after learning she helped put him in jail. Loughren said:

“He hasn’t responded to my letters since the book came out. He did not know that I worked for the New Jersey prosecution until the book came out.”