After the sudden death of two patients in a hospital in New Jersey, no one could have guessed the crimes that were about to be solved.

And a key member of the investigation was Amy Laughren – featured in Netflix’s new film The Good Nurse – who was instrumental in uncovering the shocking truth about Charles Cullen, a co-worker she called a friend.

Born in New Jersey in 1960, Cullen was the youngest of eight siblings.

His father was a bus driver who died before Cullen was a year old, and his mother, a housewife, died in a car accident when he was a teenager.

His first murders

After what many described as an unhappy childhood, a brief stint in the Navy, and numerous suspected suicide attempts, Cullen eventually became a nurse, graduating from nursing school in 1987 before marrying.

Cullen and his wife had two daughters before divorcing in 1993.

Cullen is believed to have killed his first victims during this time.

Cullen went on to work in several hospitals and nursing homes. He quit some jobs after investigations into allegations of misconduct — once because an elderly woman complained he kept coming into her room and giving her injections when he wasn’t her assigned nurse.

He was fired from one hospital for hiding heart medication in a needle disposal container.

He attended various medical centers in New Jersey and even worked for a time in Pennsylvania after obtaining his license to practice there.

His weapon of choice: Digoxin

Between 1998 and 2002, he worked through an agency and worked full-time.

It is believed that during this time he killed even more people.

His weapon of choice was a drug called digoxin – a drug commonly used to treat people with irregular heartbeats or heart failure – but deadly in large doses.

Cullen also injected patients with saline containing lethal doses of insulin and other drugs.

His crimes went on for 16 years, but in 2003, when he was working at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, New Jersey, everything finally came to light.

Florian Gall was a saint who was treated in a hospital.

After showing signs of improvement during his stay, Gall had a massive heart attack and died.

It was later determined that he had a lethal level of digoxin and that his death was caused by an unauthorized dose of the drug.

Cullen was finally arrested in December 2003.

He told investigators he administered drug overdoses to put “very sick” patients out of their misery.

He confessed to 30-40 murders, but the true number is believed to be closer to 400, which would make him the most prolific serial killer in US history.

A friendship that would eventually bring him down

While working at the hospital, which would be his last hospital, Cullen met a nurse – Laughren – and they became friends.

She saw him as a good person, someone she wanted to spend time with and be friends with.

But it was Laughren – described as “courageous” and “incredible” – who helped detectives build the case against him.

A single mother with cardiomyopathy coped with night shifts in a New Jersey to the hospital to qualify for health insurance when the obviously highly qualified Cullen was hired to help manage the workload.

The two quickly developed a close bond, with Cullen even helping Laughren hide her illness and care for her two young daughters.

But after the sudden deaths of two patients, detectives began to suspect Cullen.

When they gave her documents that showed the drugs Cullen was ordering, she “knew he was killing people,” she previously said.

“There have been so many recalls of lethal drugs that you wouldn’t order unless you wanted to kill someone,” she told CBS at the time.

She began gathering evidence at the hospital and wore a wire to her meeting with him. She also admits that she manipulated him to try to get him to confess.

The Good Nurse stars Jessica Chastain as Lorena and Eddie Redmayne as Cullen.

Read more:
Jessica Chastain on the role of a nurse who helps catch a fellow serial killer

The former nurse spoke to Sky News Now.

She says she was “proud” to see the film come together, even though it served as a “trigger” for much of the time she spent with Cullen.

Laughren said: “I was very scared every day and I kept it together.

“What they don’t show in the film is that I was actually much sicker – and I was really scared to leave my two girls.

“Watching Jessica play me made me proud of myself.”

“It’s my fault I won’t make friends because he’s a monster”

“Watching Charlie (played by Redmayne) was exciting because Eddie really embodies who my friend Charlie was.

“The way he moves, the way he talks, the interactions we have are so real. This part was extremely triggering.

“And let myself know that I missed him for a while — and it’s my fault that I actually miss the friendship because he’s a monster.

“But I didn’t know the killer. I only met the killer a couple of times and he played this role of my friend.

“I missed that friendship, so it was quite the trigger. And then it was like, “let’s go.”

Amy Laughren (left) and Jessica Chastain at the Toronto International Film Festival. Photo: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Making a movie “it was funny at first”

The filmmakers found the relationship between the single mother and Cullen to be the most “compelling” part of the story.

Lauren, who retired 18 months ago, added: “It was funny at first because I thought, how is anyone really going to want to see the film? And really, (the investigation) was such a small part.

“Darren Aronofsky was the one who originally picked it up and decided to make it into a movie.

“He said that the most compelling part of Charles Graeber’s absolutely brilliant book was the friendship, and that was compelling to him.

“Something that I was really ashamed of and felt a lot of guilt for suddenly appeared on the big screen.

“I really didn’t know what to feel. I didn’t want anyone to know who I was 20 years ago.

The Good Nurse (2022).  From left to right: Eddie Redmayne as Charlie Cullen and Jessica Chastain as Amy Laughren.  kr.  Jojo Whilden/Netflix
Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain in The Good Nurse. Photo: JoJo Whilden/Netflix

“I didn’t want anyone to judge me for who I was 20 years ago.

“It was scary. At first I didn’t want my name on it. Then I realized it was going to happen with or without me – I might as well give myself a voice.”

Chastain, who first met Lauren during a Zoom call, emphasized how difficult life was for the former nurse.

“What she stumbles upon is quite shocking”

Chastain told Sky News: “Being able to talk to Amy and understand what her life has been like and what she’s putting on the line, it really helped me understand how courageous she is and what an incredible person she is.

“Everything she was doing at that time. Being a single mom of two girls, not having health insurance, working the night shift, so you don’t really get enough sleep.

“And at the same time a heart transplant is needed. That’s what we’re going with at the beginning of this movie.

“What she stumbles upon next is quite shocking.”

Director Tobias Lindholm said he “loved” the story’s focus on “a hard-working woman whose superpower is humanity”.

He added: “I remember coming across the script a few years ago and it mirrored Charles Graeber’s book more closely in that it focused on the killer, but the most interesting part for me was Amy Loren’s role in the story.”

The Good Nurse is in UK cinemas and beyond Netflix.

Listen to the Sky News Backstage podcast below to hear Chastain talk about her role in The Good Nurse and you can click here to subscribe to Backstage wherever you get your podcasts