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Prosecutor: Ex-nurse to enter plea deal

Man has reportedly confessed to killing dozens of patients

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New Jersey
Hospitals and Clinics
Crime, Law and Justice

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A former nurse who prosecutors say has confessed to killing dozens of patients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania hospitals is expected to plead guilty to murder charges in a deal that would spare him from the death penalty, according to a prosecutor's spokesman.

Charles Cullen's formal plea is expected to be made this week in Somerset County, New Jersey, according to Lt. Jeff Paul, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office in neighboring Morris County.

Prosecutors in Morris County and other jurisdictions where Cullen is suspected of killing patients must also agree to the deal. Paul said his office will sign off on the plea agreement Monday.

In December, Cullen was charged in Somerset County with one count of murder and one count of attempted murder. Cullen told a judge during a brief court appearance at that time that he would not contest the charges against him.

The number of murder counts involved in the possible plea deal could not be confirmed.

Cullen claimed to have killed between 12 and 15 patients at the Somerset Medical Center, where he worked for several years, and as many as 40 patients at 10 other medical facilities where he worked, Somerset County Prosecutor Wayne Forrest told reporters in December.

"He purposely caused the deaths by the improper administration of various medications," Forrest told reporters in the same news conference. "He asserted that his motive was to alleviate pain and suffering in these cases."

Cullen was charged with murder in the death of a Catholic priest who entered Somerset Medical Center for treatment of heart disease, Forrest said in December. The attempted murder charge involves a female patient who had cancer and heart disease. The priest was found to have lethal levels in his system of the drug digoxin, a heart medication. The female patient recovered from an overdose of the same drug, Forrest said.

Cullen was fired from the Somerset Medical Center after an investigation of six patients with abnormal lab results showed him as the only common denominator.

Other New Jersey and Pennsylvania counties where Cullen worked during his nursing career are reviewing their hospital records, looking for possible victims.

CNN's Maureen Madden and Lauren Rivera contributed to this report.

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