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Killer Nurse Gets 12th Life Sentence

A judge in Pennsylvania added a 12th life prison sentence Friday against a former nurse who killed at least 29 patients in two states.

Charles Cullen, who was sentenced last week to 11 consecutive life terms in New Jersey, gave lethal overdoses to seven patients at nursing homes and hospitals in Pennsylvania, and tried to kill three others in one of the worst murder sprees ever discovered in the U.S. health care system.

Cullen didn't attend a brief court hearing in Northampton County where he was sentenced to life without parole for the 1998 death of Ottomar Schramm. A retired Bethlehem Steel worker, Schramm died from an overdose of heart medication at Easton Hospital.

After the hearing, Schramm's daughter, Kristina Toth, said the sentence provided no closure.

"We live in a world touched by someone else's evil and that will never change," Toth said. "I wish someone would make Charles Cullen answer why he picked my dad."

The former nurse is required to attend the sentencing Friday afternoon in Lehigh County, where relatives of patients he killed also will be in attendance.

Cullen escaped the death penalty after agreeing to help prosecutors identify patients to whom he had given lethal drug overdoses. He will serve his sentence in New Jersey.

Relatives of the 22 New Jersey victims confronted Cullen for the first time at his sentencing there last week, calling him a "monster" and "vermin." Cullen, 46, said nothing.

He has claimed that he killed 40 patients over a 16-year nursing career and that he did so out of mercy. Many of his victims were old and very sick.

Cullen was arrested in 2003 after a New Jersey hospital told prosecutors about questionable lab results involving patients under his care.

At the morning sentencing, Judge Stephen Baratta criticized the hospitals, saying their own economic interests motivated them to not warn other hospitals when Cullen switched jobs.

"It's appalling and unconscionable. ... It was just easier to pass Mr. Cullen to another hospital than to deal with their concerns and their suspicions," Baratta said.

Both states since have made laws protecting hospitals and nursing homes from legal action when reporting disciplinary actions taken against employees.

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