NEWARK -- A former nurse who says he killed more than 40 patients at hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania pleaded guilty yesterday to murdering a Jersey City judge in 1988.
Charles Cullen, 44, admitted he killed Municipal Judge John W. Yengo by putting lidocaine, a heart medicine, in the judge's IV. The drug made Yengo's heart stop.
The admission makes the judge Cullen's earliest known victim. Yengo died at St. Barnabas Hospital in Livingston a year after Cullen graduated from nursing school.
Cullen has pleaded guilty to killing 24 patients and trying to kill five others, mostly by injecting them with heart drugs. His lawyer said Cullen thought that his victims were terminally ill and that it was dehumanizing to prolong patients' lives through artificial means.
The judge's daughter, Suzy Yengo, said her father entered the hospital after medicine he was taking triggered an allergic reaction to the sun. He was 72.
''I was always suspicious because it happened so quickly," his daughter said yesterday. ''Without knowing anything different, I assumed it was God's will. Clearly it wasn't."
Cullen agreed to help investigators identify his victims in exchange for a promise they would not seek the death penalty. He will not be eligible for parole for at least 127 years.