The Tainted Kidney
Charles Edmund Cullen (born February 22, 1960) is a former nurse who is the most prolific serial killer in New Jersey history and is suspected to be the most prolific serial killer in American history. He confessed to authorities that he killed up to 40 patients during the course of his 16-year nursing career. But in subsequent interviews with police, psychiatric professionals, and journalists Charles Graeber and Steve Kroft, it became clear that he had killed many more, whom he could not specifically remember by name, though he could often remember details of their case. Experts have estimated that Charles Cullen may ultimately be responsible for over 300 deaths, which would make him the most prolific serial killer in American history
Cullen, is serving eighteen consecutive life sentences in a New Jersey penitentiary. Behind bars, he can no longer take life, yet he’s found a way to give it—in the form of an organ transplant. But no one wants to give him the chance to play God again.
The Angel of Death looks sleepy. His face shows nothing. His eyes are closed. Charles Cullen sits motionless in the wooden defendant’s chair of the Somerset County Courthouse as, hour after hour, his victims’ families take the stand. They read poems and show photographs, they weep and yell. If Cullen hears them, he doesn’t say; he never does. During his years in custody, Cullen has never apologized or made excuses. He has never issued a statement, offered a public word, never faced the families of his victims. In fact, the only reason he’s in court today is because he wants to give away one of his kidneys.
To that end, he has cut a deal with prosecutors, agreeing to appear at his sentencing on the condition that he be allowed to donate an organ to the dying relative of a former girlfriend. To many of the families of his victims, this deal is a personal insult—the man in shackles still calling the shots, the serial-killer nurse wanting to control the fate of yet another human life. But for the families of his New Jersey victims, this is the first and last chance to confront Charles Cullen. So they are here, and they are angry.