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20070527: Cases potentially linked with serial killer still open IL Peoria Serial Killer News
For three years, Lucille Page has prayed for an answer to a lingering question that makes it difficult to move on with her life: Who killed her 29-year-old granddaughter, Frederickia Brown?

Brown was one of 10 black women found dead or who vanished from Peoria from 2001 to 2004, baffling authorities and raising racial tensions and fear in south-side neighborhoods where most of the women were last seen alive.

Last May, former concrete worker Larry Bright ended the wondering for families of most of the women when he pleaded guilty to eight slayings in a deal with prosecutors that sent him to prison for life rather than to death row.

But Bright, 40, denied that Brown or 40-year-old Wanda Jackson were among the victims he dumped along remote country roads or burned to ash and bone in his back yard.

“You can’t lose your mind over it, you know,” said Page, whose granddaughter was strangled and had toxic levels of cocaine in her system when her body was found on Feb. 21, 2004. “I have to talk to God and think rational about it. My Savior pulls me through.”

Authorities say investigations into Brown’s and Jackson’s deaths remain open, and they continue to work closely with black leaders through relationships forged during the original investigations. But leads have virtually dried up since Bright’s guilty plea.

Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy said he still suspects Bright, despite Bright’s denials during hours of interrogations.

McCoy says he believes Bright probably killed Brown, but not Jackson, whose body was found more than two years before the other killings began.

“I find it hard to believe he wasn’t involved in Brown’s murder ... I could be wrong. I probably am wrong. It just fits,” McCoy said.

Brown died in the midst of Bright’s other killings, which stretched from July 2003 to October 2004. Like the other women, he said, she was black and led a lifestyle that included drugs and prostitution.

Her cause of death also mirrored Bright’s other victims, who died of strangulation or drug overdoses.

Bright’s attorney, Jay Elmore, insists his client has no motive to lie about the killings, noting that Bright’s plea agreement called for life in prison regardless of the number of victims because prosecutors wanted closure for families of women whose bodies were burned and never identified.

“No one involved in the case could point to a motive of why he would admit to killing eight people and stop there ... My impressions were and still are that he had nothing to do with those other murders,” Elmore said.

Bright, serving a life sentence without parole at Menard Correctional Center, did not respond to a letter from The Associated Press seeking an interview.

No reason to lie about deaths?

McCoy acknowledged that other investigators agree Bright had no reason to lie about Brown’s death and suspect she may have died at the hands of someone else, perhaps a copycat killer.

Peoria County sheriff’s Capt. David Briggs said Bright and others remain “persons of interest” in the killings, but police lack enough evidence to pursue charges.

The Rev. Timothy Criss, an advocate for victims’ families, says the women’s relatives — including Brown’s and Jackson’s — generally believe Bright committed all the murders.

“I think in their minds, it’s more probable than it is possible,” Criss said.

Still, Brown’s grandmother says she needs to know for sure.

“If he didn’t do it, they need to find the person who did,” said Page, who keeps her granddaughter’s ashes in an urn at her Peoria home. “If somebody knows something, I would like to tell them to come forward. Nobody does a murder without somebody knowing. Somebody out there knows.”

Cases revisited frequently

McCoy said police revisit the two unsolved cases frequently.

“We need that one little thing to push us over the edge,” he said.

Even as families struggle for closure, authorities say positive change has emerged in the wake of the killings.

Criss’ church, the City of Refuge Worship Center, has started a new substance abuse treatment center that has drawn more than 100 clients since it opened less than two months ago. Criss hopes it helps steer people away from drugs and the dangers that come with them.

“We honestly believe that if there had been something more in place for these young ladies that maybe they would not have fallen victim to what they fell victim to,” Criss said.

He said the new effort is needed because drug use and prostitution ebbed briefly during the killings, but returned after Bright’s arrest.

“That lifestyle hasn’t really changed ... so we hope there is never another person like Larry Bright,” McCoy said.

Authorities also say cooperation during the investigations built a much-needed bridge between police and Peoria’s black community, which comprises nearly a quarter of the city’s 113,000 residents.

“I think black people saw some results and that’s something that a lot of African Americans feel like we haven’t seen enough of,” Criss said. “There has been this overwhelming feeling that when things happen in the African American community, people don’t care. So I think people could put a face on caring for the first time in many years.”

 

20060531: Accused Ill. Serial Killer Pleads Guilty IL Peoria Serial Killer News

A serial killer who prosecutors say burned some of his victims to ash and bits of bone in his mother's backyard pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing eight women.

Under a deal with prosecutors, Larry Bright, 39, escaped a possible death sentence and instead will get life in prison without parole.

Four of his victims' bodies were found dumped along little-traveled roads around Peoria in 2003 and 2004, and the remains of the others were found in burn pits in the yard at the home he shared with his mother.

The killings and the time it took authorities to connect them and then track down the killer caused an uproar in Peoria's black community. The victims were black and several were prostitutes and drug addicts. Bright is white.

The former concrete worker did not comment in court other than answering "Yes, Sir" and "No, Sir" to the judge's questions, but in a statement read by an attorney, he said: "I know I've committed some horrible and unthinkable acts. I am very sorry for the grief and heartache that I have caused."

Authorities have refused to discuss a motive but say Bright was fascinated with sex and pornography involving black women.

Bright pleaded guilty Tuesday to seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of drug-induced homicide.

"I think it's a fair resolution," defense attorney Jay Elmore said. "This guy is never going to see the light of day and he knows he should never see the light of day."

Prosecutor Kevin Lyons said he agreed to the deal after consulting with victims' families, who generally supported sparing Bright's life in exchange for the guilty pleas.

Before handing down the life sentence, Judge James Shadid told Bright that victims' families showed "more consideration, more mercy and more respect for your life than you showed them for theirs."

 

20060531: Accused Ill. Serial Killer Pleads Guilty IL Chicago Serial Killer News

Accused serial killer pleads guilty to eight deaths in exchange for life in prison

A serial killer who prosecutors say burned some of his victims to ash and bits of bone in his mother's backyard pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing eight women.

Under a deal with prosecutors, Larry Bright, 39, escaped a possible death sentence and instead will get life in prison without parole.

Four of his victims' bodies were found dumped along little-traveled roads around Peoria in 2003 and 2004, and the remains of the others were found in burn pits in the yard at the home he shared with his mother.

The killings and the time it took authorities to connect them and then track down the killer caused an uproar in Peoria's black community. The victims were black and several were prostitutes and drug addicts. Bright is white.

The former concrete worker did not comment in court other than answering "Yes, Sir" and "No, Sir" to the judge's questions, but in a statement read by an attorney, he said: "I know I've committed some horrible and unthinkable acts. I am very sorry for the grief and heartache that I have caused."

Authorities have refused to discuss a motive but say Bright was fascinated with sex and pornography involving black women.

Bright pleaded guilty Tuesday to seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of drug-induced homicide.

"I think it's a fair resolution," defense attorney Jay Elmore said. "This guy is never going to see the light of day and he knows he should never see the light of day."

Prosecutor Kevin Lyons said he agreed to the deal after consulting with victims' families, who generally supported sparing Bright's life in exchange for the guilty pleas.

Before handing down the life sentence, Judge James Shadid told Bright that victims' families showed "more consideration, more mercy and more respect for your life than you showed them for theirs."

 

20060530: Accused IL Serial Killer pleads guilty IL Chicago Serial Killer News

A serial killer who prosecutors say burned some of his victims to ash and bits of bone in his mother's backyard pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing eight women.

Under a deal with prosecutors, Larry Bright, 39, escaped a possible death sentence and instead will get life in prison without parole.

Four of his victims' bodies were found dumped along little-traveled roads around Peoria in 2003 and 2004, and the remains of the others were found in burn pits in the yard at the home he shared with his mother.

The killings and the time it took authorities to connect them and then track down the killer caused an uproar in Peoria's black community. The victims were black and several were prostitutes and drug addicts. Bright is white.

The former concrete worker did not comment in court other than answering "Yes, Sir" and "No, Sir" to the judge's questions, but in a statement read by an attorney, he said: "I know I've committed some horrible and unthinkable acts. I am very sorry for the grief and heartache that I have caused."

Authorities have refused to discuss a motive but say Bright was fascinated with sex and pornography involving black women.

Bright pleaded guilty Tuesday to seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of drug-induced homicide.

"I think it's a fair resolution," defense attorney Jay Elmore said. "This guy is never going to see the light of day and he knows he should never see the light of day."

Prosecutor Kevin Lyons said he agreed to the deal after consulting with victims' families, who generally supported sparing Bright's life in exchange for the guilty pleas.

Before handing down the life sentence, Judge James Shadid told Bright that victims' families showed "more consideration, more mercy and more respect for your life than you showed them for theirs."

 

20060509: Judge sets deadline for plea deal for serial killer suspect IL Peoria Serial Killer News
A judge on Monday gave attorneys three weeks to negotiate a possible plea agreement that could spare the life of an alleged serial killer who prosecutors say has confessed to killing eight women, burning half of the bodies to ash and bone in his back yard.

Peoria County Judge James Shadid told attorneys he will set a trial date for 39-year-old Larry Bright and rule on a defense motion to move his trial if ongoing talks fail to strike a deal before Bright's next scheduled court appearance on May 30.

Bright faces the death penalty if convicted, but Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons said Monday he would consider a defense bid for life in prison without parole if victims' families support it.

"At the end of the day, the decision is mine and mine alone. ... But it is important to me that the decision is reached after being filtered through family members," Lyons told reporters.

Lyons said families' thoughts about a possible deal are more important than in about a dozen other capital cases he has handled because the killings affected so many people and sparked criticism.

from Peoria's black community.

before Bright was arrested nearly a year and a half ago.

Black leaders alleged authorities were slow to launch an investigation into the deaths and disappearances of black women because of their lifestyles involving prostitution and drug use. Many blacks also felt victimized because Bright is white, Lyons said.

Bright's court-appointed attorneys said the pretrial plea negotiations are typical for a death penalty case.

"You're really not doing your jobs if you don't try to negotiate. ... Weâ€'re hopeful something can be resolved but it might not be," said defense attorney Jay Elmore.

Lyons said talks will end if no deal is reached by the judge's deadline. Attorneys for both sides say Bright's trial would likely begin this fall if negotiations fail.

Prosecutors say Bright has confessed to killing eight women, burning half of the bodies for up to two days in backyard pits and dumping the others along remote country roads in neighboring Peoria and Tazewell counties.

Bright is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Linda K. Neal, 40, and Brenda Erving, 41, whose bodies were found in 2004, and 29-year-old Tamara Walls, who was reported missing in 2004.

Lyons said any plea agreement would require the former concrete worker to publicly admit the other slayings, providing closure for victims' families. Authorities say DNA tests have been unable to identify charred pieces of bone recovered from about a half-dozen sites where investigators say Bright told them he dumped remains of the women.

Bright has pleaded not guilty. He tried to plead guilty during his first two court appearances last year, but to protect his rights judges rejected the attempts. Bright's attorneys say his family has since persuaded him to fight for his life despite his remorse over the killings.

Authorities have declined to discuss a motive but say Bright developed a fascination with sex and pornography involving black women. The victims were all black and led what authorities called "questionable lifestyles."

A Springfield psychiatrist completed a 116-page report Monday based on a mental evaluation of Bright. Defense attorneys said outside court that they had not yet read Dr. Terry Killian's findings. Lyons said he concluded Bright was not insane at the time of the killings based on a quick review of the report.
 

20060508: Report expected this week on alleged Peoria serial k IL Peoria Serial Killer News
A Springfield psychiatrist who has been studying the case of accused Peoria serial killer Larry Bright says his 110-page report on whether Bright was sane when he allegedly killed at least three women should be ready some time this week.Once both sides have a chance to review the report by psychiatrist Terry Killian, a trial date will probably be set for Bright. Also expected soon is a ruling on whether to move the case out of Peoria County because of pretrial publicity.

Bright faces charges in the killings of three women: 29-year-old Tamara Wells, 40-year-old Linda Neal, and 41-year Brenda Erving. He allegedly choked all three of them.

Bright faces the death penalty if convicted.
 

20060127: Accused serial killer pleads not guilty to latest murder charge IL Peoria Serial Killer News
An alleged serial killer who prosecutors say confessed to killing eight women pleaded not guilty Friday to new charges in one of those slayings.

Larry Bright, 39, of Peoria already was charged with killing two women and pleaded not guilty to those deaths. Then on Tuesday he was indicted with the first-degree murder of 29-year-old Tamara Walls and pleaded not guilty on Friday to killing her.

Prosecutors say Bright confessed to a total of eight slayings, including the three for which he is charged. The confession came when he was arrested a year ago by a police task force investigating the unsolved deaths and disappearances of black women in the Peoria area, authorities said. Bright faces the death penalty if convicted.

The former concrete worker was charged last year with killing Linda K. Neal, 40, and 41-year-old Brenda Erving. Their bodies were found in 2004 along remote country roads.

Prosecutors say they linked Bright to Walls' death through a jawbone found at a rural site where he allegedly admitted hiding remains after burning four bodies to ash and bone in his backyard, then scattering the remains. Authorities said Walls was reported missing in September 2004.

The charred jawbone showed evidence of dental surgery that was confirmed by both dental records and Walls' family, Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons said.

Authorities say they are awaiting DNA tests that could lead to additional charges against Bright.

He tried to plead guilty during his first two court appearances last year, but judges rejected the attempts to protect his rights. Bright's attorneys say his family has since persuaded him to fight for his life despite his remorse over the killings.

Prosecutors have declined to discuss a motive but say Bright, who is white, developed a fascination with sex and pornography involving black women. The victims were all black and led what authorities called "questionable lifestyles," including prostitution and drug use.

Bright is being held without bond in the Tazewell County Jail.

 

20060126: State's attorney: jawbone links victim to alleged serial killer IL Peoria Serial Killer News
Evidence of dental surgery on a jawbone have linked a confessed serial killer to one of his alleged victims, according to the Peoria County state's attorney.

Investigators linked the bone to Tamara Walls after comparing her dental records to a bone found at a Norwood site where Larry Bright allegedly admitted hiding burned remains, Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons said Wednesday.

"Dental records reveal and family members confirm that she had a surgical procedure that caused this (marks on the jawbone)," Lyons said.

A Peoria County grand jury Tuesday indicted Bright on two counts of first-degree murder in the death of the 29-year-old Walls, who was reported missing in September 2004.

The former concrete worker has confessed to killing eight women, burning some of the bodies to ash and bone and scattering their remains, prosecutors said. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

Bright was charged last year with first-degree murder in the deaths of Linda K. Neal, 40, and Brenda Erving, 41. Neal's body was found in September 2004 along a remote country road near Hopedale, southeast of Peoria, and Erving's body was found in October 2004 in rural Peoria County.

Bright's court-appointed attorneys entered not guilty pleas in those deaths. His attorneys did not immediately return calls for comment.

 

20060125: Alleged serial killer indicted on new charges IL Peoria Serial Killer News
Nearly a year ago, accused serial killer Larry Bright allegedly confessed to killing eight women but was charged in connection with only two of those deaths.

On Tuesday, a Peoria County grand jury handed down a two-count indictment alleging the former concrete worker, 39, choked Tamara "Tammy" Walls to death sometime between August and October 2004.

The two first-degree murder counts reflect two legal theories that prosecutors would have to prove at trial. One count alleges Bright choked Walls, 29, with the intent to kill. The other alleges he choked her and knew such action could cause death or great bodily charge.

Bright will next appear in court Friday for a hearing on where the trial will be held. Peoria County Circuit Judge James Shadid could decide at that hearing to move the trial out of Peoria County because of the pre-trial publicity.

The new charges come almost a year after Bright was charged with the choking deaths of Linda Neal, 40, and Brenda Erving, 41, both of Peoria.

Bright allegedly confessed to killing the eight Peoria women during a 15-month span beginning in July 2003. Four were dumped along rural roads in Peoria and Tazewell counties. The others were incinerated and the bones crushed before being disposed of behind Bright's home and in rural areas of both counties, according to authorities.

For months, prosecutors have said they were waiting for the results of DNA analysis of bones and other debris found at Bright's house. It was unclear on Tuesday what led prosecutors to file charges in Walls' death.

No one was available Tuesday at the Peoria County State's Attorney's Office to discuss the new charges. Bright's two Springfield-based attorneys also were not available Tuesday.

If convicted of killing the women, Bright faces either life in prison or the death penalty.

 

20051228: Prosecutors likely won't oppose moving accused serial killer's trial IL Peoria Serial Killer News
Prosecutors likely won't oppose moving a trial outside Peoria County for a man they say has confessed to killing eight women and burning some of their bodies in backyard pits.Attorneys for 39-year-old Larry Bright filed court papers last week seeking a change of venue, arguing that the publicity surrounding the case makes it impossible to find an impartial jury in the central Illinois county.

Today, Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons said the defense team's argument was "hard to dispute."

The matter will likely be addressed during a January 27th court hearing.

The former concrete worker is charged with first-degree murder. He is being held without bond.

Moving the trial would be costly, adding transportation and lodging expenses for attorneys, witnesses and other courtroom personnel.
 

20051222: Accused Peoria serial killer's attorneys seek change of venue IL Peoria Serial Killer News
Attorneys for an accused serial killer prosecutors say confessed to killing eight Peoria women since mid-2003 have asked that his trial be held outside the area.Larry Bright's attorneys said in court papers filed yesterday that publicity already generated by the case would make it impossible to find an impartial jury in Peoria County.

Defense attorney Jay Elmore says he's waiting to hear whether prosecutors will oppose a change of venue.

No one answered the telephone at the Peoria County state's attorney's office last night.

Elmore has said Bright could stand trial by late summer or early fall.

Possible trial dates could be discussed during Bright's next court appearance, set for January 27th.
 

20051107: Accused Peoria serial killer could go to trial by next fall IL Peoria Serial Killer News
An accused serial killer who prosecutors say has confessed to killing eight Peoria women and burning some of their bodies to ash and bone could stand trial by the second half of next year, his attorney said Monday.

Possible trial dates will be discussed when 39-year-old Larry Bright next appears in court Jan. 27, Peoria County Circuit Judge James Shadid told the attorneys during a brief court hearing.

James Elmore, one of Bright's court-appointed lawyers, said outside court that the potential death penalty case could go to trial by late summer or early fall. Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons did not immediately return a call for comment.

Elmore told the judge that Bright's three-attorney legal team would file a change of venue motion within a month to move the trial out of Peoria County because of extensive media coverage of the case. Prosecutors did not say whether they would contest the move.

The judge on Monday also approved a psychiatric evaluation for Bright. Bright will be examined by Springfield forensic psychologist Terry Killian, who earlier found the former concrete worker fit to stand trial.

Prosecutors say Bright has confessed in the deaths of eight Peoria women since mid-2003, burning half of the bodies for up to two days in backyard pits and dumping the others along little-travelled country roads.

Bright is charged with first-degree murder in two of the deaths and faces the death penalty if convicted. Authorities are awaiting results of DNA tests that could bring new charges against Bright, who was arrested in January by a task force investigating the deaths and disappearances of black women in the Peoria area.

After his arrest, police say Bright led them to hundreds of charred skull and bone fragments that he dumped in neighboring Peoria and Tazewell counties, including on his grandmother's property.

Authorities say the remains - none bigger than a golf ball - are from at least two different victims, but aren't sure DNA tests will provide identities because some fragments were so badly burned. Elmore said tests have been completed at an Illinois state police lab, but the findings have not been released.

Bright, who smiled at his mother as he walked into court, tried to plead guilty during his first two court appearances, but judges rejected it to protect his rights. His attorneys have entered a not guilty plea and say Bright's family has convinced him to fight for his life despite his remorse over the killings.

Prosecutors have declined to discuss a motive but say Bright, who is white, developed a fascination with sex and pornography involving black women. The victims were all black and led what authorities called "questionable lifestyles," including prostitution and drug use.

Bright is being held without bond in the Tazewell County Jail.

 

20050917: Accused serial killer will "fight for his life" IL Peoria Serial Killer News
Family members of Larry Bright convinced him not to plead guilty but instead to "fight for his life," Bright's attorney said Friday afternoon.

"He's especially close to his mother, and it's important to her," said defense attorney Jay Elmore of Springfield.

Such an attitude change is in sharp contrast to how the former concrete worker acted when he first appeared in court in January, charged with the murders of two women.

Then, he repeatedly tried to plead guilty, once asking a judge several times to allow him. Each time, he was rebuffed by judges who said they needed to protect his rights.

Elmore's comments came after a hearing in Peoria County Circuit Court was continued to allow Bright's team of attorneys to work on several motions they plan on filing in the case.

Bright, 39, allegedly confessed to killing eight Peoria women during a 15-month span beginning in July 2003. Four were dumped along rural roads in Peoria and Tazewell counties. The others were incinerated and the bones crushed before being disposed of behind Bright's home and in rural areas of both counties.

Prosecutors have only charged him with the deaths of Linda Neal and Brenda Erving. The rest, it appears, are dependent on DNA identification.

If convicted, Bright faces the death penalty.

Elmore said he wanted a mental health expert to examine his client to see if Bright was mentally ill or even insane at the time of the alleged murders. If the expert finds Bright was insane or mentally ill, that could be used in his defense.

Another motion likely to be filed within a few weeks is to move the trial out of Peoria. Elmore said such a move was likely due to pretrial publicity.

Elmore declined to speculate on when the case would go to trial. It's highly unlikely, however, that Bright will go to trial this year.

 

20050814: Alleged serial killer's case rekindles debate over death penalty reforms IL Peoria Serial Killer News

Prosecuting accused killers has convinced Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons that Illinois' death penalty reforms are as flawed as the capital punishment system they tried to fix.

Still, Lyons has no doubt about pursuing a death sentence for alleged serial killer Larry Bright, who authorities say confessed in the deaths of eight Peoria women, burning some bodies in backyard pits then scattering the remains.

The 39-year-old former concrete worker likely won't stand trial until next year, but his case has rekindled debate over an Illinois justice system haunted by innocent men sent to death row.

Lyons contends the reforms, including a state-funded "pot of gold" for defense lawyers and mental health experts, are poorly veiled attempts to make death sentences too much trouble for prosecutors.

Supporters say prosecutors' complaints are proof of the success of the reforms passed after then-Gov. George Ryan cleared death row before leaving office in 2003 after courts found 13 men had been wrongly convicted.

Lyons, one of the most vocal critics of the reforms on behalf of other prosecutors, lobbied against last spring's failed effort to allow death sentences only when a defendant's guilt was proven beyond all doubt, rather than simply beyond reasonable doubt.

"Instead of striking a balance, the trouble we have with it is that the burdens and the hoops become so many and so detailed that it borders on the absurd," Lyons said.

Supporters say the reforms - including added protections against false confessions, unreliable eyewitnesses and jailhouse snitches - are working.

"I think justice is being better served," said Stephen Richards, head of the state appellate defender's death penalty trial assistance division. "People actually innocent or with reasonable defenses have a better shot at not being convicted and executed."

Seven men have been sent to death row since Ryan cleared it and an eighth has been sentenced to die but is awaiting a ruling to reconsider the verdict. More than 100 death penalty cases are pending across the state, court officials said.

During the 1990s, before Ryan halted executions in 2000, the state was sentencing more people to death. Illinois had a high of 17 death sentences in 1990 and a low of six in 1997, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics, part of the Justice Department. When Ryan emptied death row in 2003, he commuted 167 death sentences to life in prison and pardoned four men.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has continued the moratorium on executions.

Lyons, a five-term prosecutor, objects most to a state fund that has doled out more than $13 million to defend hundreds of death penalty cases statewide since it was established about five years ago.

He said the fund pays for teams of defense lawyers who spend even more money on psychological exams for their clients, sometimes hiring several experts until they get the findings they want. The fund also pays for researchers who spend months sifting through an accused's background, seeking any evidence that might sway a jury if the case moves to the death penalty phase.

"I don't suggest the defendant simply has a party of one, his attorney and that's it. I can't tell you exactly what the balance should be, but I know it shouldn't be how it is now," said Lyons, who has prosecuted about a dozen death penalty cases.

It's too early to say how the reforms will affect Bright's case, which is still in its early stages.

Brown County State's Attorney Jerry Hooker said that by effectively eliminating the death penalty, the reforms have taken away a bargaining chip for prosecutors to seek prison sentences without parole that can spare victims' families from having to relive the crime at parole hearings.

"If the legislature wants to have a debate on whether to have the death penalty or not, that can be done," said Hooker, president of the Illinois State's Attorneys Association. "But let's not make legislation that handcuffs prosecutors and keeps us from doing our job."

Defense attorneys say it should be tough for the state to impose the death penalty.

"That is the ultimate penalty and it's irreversible. They should know if they're going to do that they're going to have a fight on their hands," said James Elmore, one of Bright's court-appointed attorneys.

Rob Warden, executive director of Northwestern University's Center for Wrongful Convictions, discounted prosecutors' criticism.

"I've always thought asking prosecutors what we should do about wrongful convictions is tantamount to asking foxes what we should do with hen houses," Warden said.

Death penalty opponents say more still needs to be done.

"No human system can be devised that ensures mistakes or misconduct won't happen," said Jane Bohman, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

 

20050507: Judge orders mental examination of suspected serial killer IL Peoria Serial Killer News
A Peoria County judge today appointed a psychiatrist to assess whether accused serial killer Larry Bright is mentally fit to stand trial.Judge James Shadid (SHAD'-id) accepted a defense motion to appoint psychiatrist Terry Killian to examine Bright, who is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Linda Kay Neal and Brenda Erving.

Prosecutors say the former concrete worker has allegedly confessed to killing six other women, including four who were burned for up to two days in backyard pits.

The 38-year-old's court-appointed attorneys said the mental examination could take place sometime in June.

Prosecutors say Bright confessed in January to killing eight women. He allegedly dumped some of their bodies along country roads and burned the others.
 

20050415: Fitness examination set for alleged Peoria serial killer IL Peoria Serial Killer News
A man prosecutors say has confessed to killing eight Peoria women will be examined within 60 days to determine if he is fit to stand trial.The fitness exam for 38-year-old Larry Bright was approved by a Peoria county judge today during a brief court hearing.

Defense lawyers said after the hearing that Bright's trial is likely six to 12 months away if the former concrete worker is deemed fit.

Bright has been charged in two women's deaths, but prosecutors say he has confessed to six more. Authorities are awaiting D-N-A tests they hope will identify four women they say Bright claims he burned to ash and bone in backyard pits.

Bright is being held without bond and has pleaded innocent in the string of deaths that dates to mid-2003.
 

20050409: Serial killer task force dwindles IL Peoria Serial Killer News
Only two detectives remain working full time on an investigation that led to the arrest of confessed serial killer Larry Bright.

The task force formed to investigate the deaths and disappearances of 10 African-American women has slowly dwindled from more than a dozen detectives and other crime specialists since Bright's arrest.

"The major task, which was to find who was doing all the killing, is complete," Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy said Friday. "But there is some interviewing still going on. We have two murders yet to solve and some shoring-up to do with the other cases."

The task force, formed in September, began with 10 detectives from Peoria city police, Peoria and Tazewell county sheriff's departments, and Illinois State Police. After a few weeks, the task grew to 15 officers, added a phone line for tips and a $20,000 reward was offered.

Within two months, Bright's name had been tossed around. Prostitutes who escaped Bright described the "guest house" he took them to behind 2418 W. Starr St., just outside Peoria's southwestern limits, where he raped and beat them.

Bright, 38, confessed in January to luring women to his home by offering them free drugs or cash for sex. During a 15-month period beginning in July 2003, Bright says he strangled eight women, though he has been charged with only two murders.

Two other deaths remain unsolved - Wanda Jackson and Frederickia Brown, Peoria women who Bright claims he did not kill.

"We haven't turned our back to these deaths," McCoy said. "We are going to continue actively working them."

As of this week, only one detective from each of the Peoria and Tazewell County sheriff's departments remains.

Police continue to ask information on the unsolved deaths. To report information, call your local police agency or CrimeStoppers at 673-9000 or 347-9000.

 

20050315: Prosecutors will seek death penalty against alleged serial killer IL Peoria Serial Killer News
Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a man they say has confessed to killing eight Peoria women.Larry Bright said nothing today after Peoria County Circuit Judge James Shadid informed him of the possible death sentence. He was handcuffed and shackled during the brief court hearing.

Prosecutors say Bright dumped some of the women's bodies along vacant country roads and burned the others to ash and bone in backyard pits.

The 38-year-old former concrete worker has tried to plead guilty during two earlier court appearances, but Shadid and another judge refused it. His court-appointed attorney has entered an innocent plea.

Bright is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Linda Kay Neal and Brenda Erving. Prosecutors say he has confessed to killing six other women.
 

20050313: Prosecutors to seek death penalty against alleged serial killer IL Peoria Serial Killer News
The top prosecutor in Peoria County says he will seek the death penalty against a Peoria man charged with two murders and implicated in at least six others.States Attorney Kevin Lyons filed his intent yesterday to seek death for 38-year-old Larry Bright, if the former concrete worker is convicted of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Linda Neal and Brenda Erving.

State law mandates at least a life sentence for Bright if he is convicted of both murders.

Police say Bright has confessed to killing as many as eight women.

Authorities believe he went on a 15-month killing spree beginning in July 2003 that ended with eight victims, four being dumped along rural central Illinois roads. The others were incinerated and disposed of behind Bright's home and in rural Peoria and Tazewell counties.
 

20050221: Judge denies alleged serial killer's attempt to plead guilty IL Peoria Serial Killer News
A Peoria man who prosecutors say has confessed to killing eight woman tried to plead guilty during an arraignment today, but his plea was again turned down by a judge.Larry Bright's attorney entered an innocent plea in the deaths of two women. But as the judge was explaining the court process, Bright quietly said: "Judge, I really wanted to plead guilty."

Judge James Shadid told Bright he wouldn't accept the plea, saying he needed to protect Bright's rights because his could become a death penalty case.

Prosecutors say they'll decide by March 15th whether to seek the death sentence.

Bright also tried to plead guilty during his first court appearance last month, but another judge rejected that attempt.
 

20050218: Judge rebuffs alleged serial killer’s pleas IL Peoria Serial Killer News
A man who prosecutors say has confessed to killing eight women in the Peoria area and burning some of their bodies to ash in a backyard pit tried to plead guilty to two of the killings Thursday, but a judge wouldn’t allow it.

It was the second time Larry Bright, 38, had tried to plead guilty but been refused.

Bright appeared in Peoria County Circuit Court for arraignment on first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Linda K. Neal and Brenda Erving. He has not been charged in the remaining six deaths, but prosecutors say additional charges are expected.

After his lawyer, Thomas Penn, pleaded innocent on his client’s behalf, Judge James E. Shadid explained to Bright what that meant and what legal process lay ahead.

"Judge, I really wanted to plead guilty," Bright said, his voice barely audible.

"At some point you may have the opportunity to do that, but today is not the day," Shadid replied. He explained that he refused the guilty plea to protect Bright’s rights, noting that prosecutors could choose to seek the death penalty.

Assistant State’s Attorney Nancy Mermelstein said prosecutors would decide by a March 15 case management conference whether to seek capital punishment. Shadid assigned the case to the capital defender’s office and set an April 13 trial date.

If convicted of one of the deaths, Bright could face 20 to 60 years in prison. If convicted of both, he could face life behind bars or the death penalty.

The former concrete worker was first charged in the death of Neal, 40, and tried to plead guilty during his initial court appearance in that case last month. A judge rejected it and appointed Bright a public defender.

A grand jury later indicted Bright on first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Neal and Erving, 41, both of Peoria.

Bodies of six women began turning up along rural roads around Peoria four years ago — one in 2001, another in 2003, then four last year. Neal’s body was found strangled Sept. 25 along a remote country road near Hopedale, southeast of Peoria, and Erving’s body was found in October in rural Peoria County.

Prosecutors said Bright confessed to four of the deaths, three of them last year and one in July 2003, along with the deaths of four other women who had been considered missing.

Bright dumped their bodies along rural roads or burned them to ash and bone in a backyard pit, according to prosecutors. Authorities have said more than 100 charred pieces of bone have been recovered from sites where investigators say Bright told them he dumped remains of the women.

Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy said searches will likely conclude this week at about a half-dozen sites in neighboring Peoria and Tazewell counties. Remains are being sent to labs for DNA tests in hope of identifying the victims, he said.

"We want to make some positive IDs. The families need to have some closure, and we understand that," McCoy said.

Bright is being held without bond in the Tazewell County Jail. He has been in custody since December when he was charged with drug possession and unlawful restraint. Authorities say those charges stemmed from tips that ultimately helped link Bright to the deaths.

The tips came to a task force formed last fall when similarities between the six dead and four missing women led authorities to suspect a serial killer. All the women were black and led what authorities called questionable lifestyles, including prostitution and drug use.

Bright, who is white, has talked to authorities several times since he was charged last month, McCoy said. He has denied involvement in the two remaining Peoria area deaths, along with several others from around the country that have surfaced since he was charged, the sheriff said.

 

20050217: Alleged serial killer tries to plead guilty IL Peoria Serial Killer News
A man who prosecutors say has confessed to killing eight women in the Peoria area and burning some of their bodies to ash in a backyard pit tried to plead guilty to two of the killings Thursday, but a judge wouldn't allow it.

It was the second time Larry Bright, 38, had tried to plead guilty but been refused.

Bright appeared in Peoria County Circuit Court for arraignment on first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Linda K. Neal and Brenda Erving. He has not been charged in the remaining six deaths, but prosecutors say additional charges are expected.

After his lawyer, Thomas Penn, pleaded innocent on his client's behalf, Judge James E. Shadid explained to Bright what that meant and what legal process lay ahead.

"Judge, I really wanted to plead guilty," Bright said, his voice barely audible.

"At some point you may have the opportunity to do that, but today is not the day," Shadid replied. He explained that he refused the guilty plea to protect Bright's rights, noting that prosecutors could choose to seek the death penalty.

Assistant State's Attorney Nancy Mermelstein said prosecutors would decide by a March 15 case management conference whether to seek capital punishment. Shadid assigned the case to the capital defender's office and set an April 13 trial date.

If convicted of one of the deaths, Bright could face 20 to 60 years in prison. If convicted of both, he could face life behind bars or the death penalty.

The former concrete worker was first charged in the death of Neal, 40, and tried to plead guilty during his initial court appearance in that case last month. A judge rejected it and appointed Bright a public defender.

A grand jury later indicted Bright on first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Neal and Erving, 41, both of Peoria.

Bodies of six women began turning up along rural roads around Peoria four years ago — one in 2001, another in 2003, then four last year. Neal's body was found strangled Sept. 25 along a remote country road near Hopedale, southeast of Peoria, and Erving's body was found in October in rural Peoria County.

Prosecutors said Bright confessed to four of the deaths, three of them last year and one in July 2003, along with the deaths of four other women who had been considered missing.

Bright dumped their bodies along rural roads or burned them to ash and bone in a backyard pit, according to prosecutors. Authorities have said more than 100 charred pieces of bone have been recovered from sites where investigators say Bright told them he dumped remains of the women.

Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy said searches will likely conclude this week at about a half-dozen sites in neighboring Peoria and Tazewell counties. Remains are being sent to labs for DNA tests in hope of identifying the victims, he said.

"We want to make some positive IDs. The families need to have some closure, and we understand that," McCoy said.

Bright is being held without bond in the Tazewell County Jail. He has been in custody since December when he was charged with drug possession and unlawful restraint. Authorities say those charges stemmed from tips that ultimately helped link Bright to the deaths.

The tips came to a task force formed last fall when similarities between the six dead and four missing women led authorities to suspect a serial killer. All the women were black and led what authorities called questionable lifestyles, including prostitution and drug use.

Bright, who is white, has talked to authorities several times since he was charged last month, McCoy said. He has denied involvement in the two remaining Peoria area deaths, along with several others from around the country that have surfaced since he was charged, the sheriff said.
 

20050216: Alleged serial killer to appear next week in court IL Peoria Serial Killer News
An alleged serial killer is scheduled to appear in a Peoria County court next week to be arraigned on new murder charges.A Peoria County grand jury returned an indictment yesterday, charging Larry Bright with the murder of Brenda Erving of Peoria.

Bright also was indicted on murder for the death of Linda Kay Neal of Peoria. The 38-year-old former concrete worker was charged last month with Neal's death but was not indicted until yesterday.

Bodies of women began turning up along rural roads around Peoria four years ago. Neal's body was found in September along a road near Hopedale, and Erving's body was found in October in rural Peoria County.

Prosecutors say Bright has confessed to killing eight women. A message left with Bright's attorney yesterday was not immediately returned.
 

20050213: Expert: Bright fits mold of serial killer IL Peoria Serial Killer News
Nothing is ordinary about serial killers.

Two experts who have studied their strange and vile ways say there also is, with some exceptions, little extraordinary about accused serial killer Larry D. Bright.

Clinton Van Zandt, one of the nation's top criminal profilers, says Bright falls in line with the average serial killer, and there's not much that isn't "atypical" as far as serial killers go.

The now-retired FBI special agent profiled Timothy McVeigh after the Oklahoma City bombing, led the team that identified the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, and was at one time the FBI's chief hostage negotiator. To top it off, Van Zandt has worked in the FBI's behavioral science unit, where he's profiled a number of murderers, including serial murderers.

"I still get requests every couple weeks," Van Zandt said by phone last week.

Van Zandt, who points out he knows nothing about the Peoria case, said the statistics show (with no great surprise) that most serial killers are white males in their early 30s.

Bright, who is white, claims he strangled eight African-American women - all of whom have been characterized as living dangerous lifestyles and known to prostitute or use drugs - between July 2003 and October 2004. He also is suspected in others.

"If there is any trend, serial killers are seemingly getting a little older, and we're moving the

ages back a little," he said.

Bright is 38 years old.

But before Bright became the key suspect, local police investigating the deaths and disappearance of 10 African-American women since March 2001 were questioned frequently during public meetings and news media whether they believed the looming serial killer to be black or white.

Long-standing statistics point to serial killers and their victims being of the same race, according to Dr. Jeffrey Walsh, assistant professor of criminal justice sciences at Illinois State University.

Walsh has a specialization in forensic psychology and has helped research the travel patterns of more than 300 serial murderers for a book titled "Serial Murderers and Their Victims," published by Wadsworth Press and authored by Dr. Eric Hickey.

"Generally speaking, violent crime and serial homicide tend to be intraracial ... however, just as with regular violent crime, this is not always the case," Walsh said

Jeffrey Dahmer strangled and dismembered (and in some cases cannibalized) 17 boys and men of various races.

Last year, Derrick Todd Lee, the Baton Rouge serial killer, was convicted in two murders but linked to the deaths of seven women between 1998 to 2003. Lee is black and his victims white.

Local detectives were never convinced their suspected killer was black, or at least did not narrow their search, and police officials made that known publicly.

That's likely because most serial killers are white, Van Zandt said.

"I don't know if the number of cross-racial murders are increasing, but I know there have been more in the last 10 to 15 years," Van Zandt said. Still, "there's also been an increased ability to link homicides together from city to city, coast to coast."

The victims

Bright's victims, Van Zandt says, are "victims of opportunity."

Drug users and prostitutes often are an easy target for serial killers, and in fact often are targeted by serial killers, he said.

The infamous Jack the Ripper targeted prostitutes; Gary Leon Ridgway admitted in 2003 he was the Green River Killer and confessed to strangling four dozen women, many of whom were prostitutes; and local serial killer Joseph Miller killed at least two prostitutes in suburban Chicago in the 1970s before he was paroled to Peoria and killed three more prostitutes.

"We're talking about high-risk victims who are easy to get to, with high-risk activity ... and who's going to report them missing? It may be days, weeks or longer before anyone reports them missing," Van Zandt said.

Bright's motive is still unknown.

Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons has said the deaths were not racially motivated.

"He gave some explanation of voices, although I think he has indicated by his statements that he is making decisions not related to an inability to control," Tazewell County State's Attorney Stewart Umholtz has said.

Lyons said: "Around the times of the murders that we know of, he appeared to the people that knew him to have a peculiar attachment to African-American women, sex with African-American women and to pornography with African-American participants."

Definition of a serial killer

By definition, a serial killer is somebody who kills three or more people, one at a time, often using similar methods with a "cooling off" period between killing. That's opposed to a mass murderer or a spree killer, Van Zandt said.

A mass murderer is someone who kills several people in one situation - for example, the killings at Columbine High School in Colorado or Richard Speck, who in 1966, killed eight student nurses in a single night in South Chicago. A spree killer, Van Zandt said, would be someone like Andrew Cunanan.

In 1997, Cunanan shot and killed five men, including Chicago businessman Lee Miglin and internationally renowned clothing designer Gianni Versace, in a cross-country murder spree before he killed himself. Although there was time between each of the killings, there was no "cooling off ... he went from one to the next," Van Zandt said.

Anywhere from 25 to 50 serial killers are functioning at any one time in the United States, and Van Zandt notes that the United States - not the only country with known serial killers or even serial killers who have accumulated large numbers of victims - has the world's most serial killers, 85 percent according to some studies. Somewhat of an anomaly, female serial murderers make up about 8 percent of serial killers in the United States.

One of the greatest challenges to police is trying to link unsolved murders together, both criminal experts say.

'The new Ted Bundy'

Why do some serial killers claim killing some victims but not all of them, or claim they killed someone they didn't?

Local police are still looking at Bright's possible connection to other deaths.

Task force investigators have not ruled Bright out for the deaths of Frederickia Brown and Wanda Jackson, both of whom fit with Bright's victim profile and were found dead of similar circumstances, in addition to being found dumped in rural areas.

Bright also has been questioned in the July 2004 disappearance of a white Canton woman of whom Bright was an old acquaintance, and the 2000 murder of a black prostitute in Racine, Wis., the same city where Bright was living with a relative at the time.

Van Zandt said serial killers will sometimes withhold information on certain deaths, while others accept responsibility for killing someone they didn't.

"You get both ends of the continuum," Van Zandt said. On one hand, it's a crime that only the killer knows about - a secret - which they may not want to share, but on the other hand "there will be somebody who wants to be the new Ted Bundy," he said.

Bundy, whose killing started in Washington state, became nationally known after he confessed to killing more than 30 women and girls, although he was convicted of murdering only three before he was executed.

Other serial killers have bragged of murdering many dozens of victims.

Ridgway, the self-confessed Green River Killer, admitted to strangling four dozen women. John Wayne Gacy, who preyed on men and boys in Chicago in the 1970s, was convicted of killing 33 people.

Serial killers may confess to some murders and ask for "favors" in return for additional information to give police and families closure, or use the possibility of giving that same information as a way to maintain power or control over a situation.

But killers may also admit to a crime they didn't do, so as to allow the real killer to go on killing.

Van Zandt says serial killers will sometimes use the knowledge they have about a particular death, or at least what the offender claims to know, to exert power - which they once had over their victims - over authorities.

Walsh agrees.

Bundy "would leak new information out as his execution neared," Walsh said. "The hope on the part of the offender is that the new information will be important enough to law enforcement and the interest of the families that they will be stayed while the new information is investigated."

"Also, they know everyone is perplexed by their behavior and responding negatively, they may too now be somewhat surprised by their own actions, and to minimize the damage, they now downplay their involvement or the full scope of their homicidal behavior," Walsh continued. "In other words, trying to diminish the perception that they are this 'monster' that they are being portrayed as."

Bright admitted to strangling eight women. Of his eight victims, Bright allegedly dumped four of his victims' bodies in rural Peoria and Tazewell counties. But Bright altered his method of disposing of four other victims by burning their bodies in a backyard "pit," crushing their bones and then disposing them in his yard and other remote areas of both counties.

Explaining this, both Walsh and Van Zandt say, serial killers often "evolve."

"They learn how to be better killers," Van Zandt said.

Sometimes serial killers read about other serial murderers, see or learn other ways to kill or dispose of their victims on television or in the movies, and "they learn how to better shock and outrage society," he continued, noting killers may be after publicity or want credit from the public for the killings.

The self-dubbed Zodiac killer preyed on men and women, usually couples, in California during the 1960s and '70s, claiming 37 victims. The Zodiac killer would write letters to local newspapers, and an occasional cryptogram, that sometimes included gory details of his killing and taunted police.

Like the Zodiac killer, other serial murderers also may be prompted to go on killing because they have the feeling they are "beating the system," said Van Zandt.

The retired FBI agent also said a number of serial killers have admitted to learning their new methods from TV and the movies after they've been caught.

"For Hollywood to say they're not responsible, I find reprehensible," he said.

Sometimes what helps police catch a serial killer is the killer's own false belief that he cannot be caught.

"Serial killers can get much better or the opposite by starting to believe they are when they are actually becoming more sloppy or careless," Van Zandt said.

But while a serial killer may evolve in some aspects, others often remain the same.

Walsh points out that Bright is a "place specific" killer.

While one of Bright's victims was killed at a house in the 500 block of West McClure Avenue in Central Peoria (where he lived at the time), his other victims were slain at his one-room "guest house" behind Bright's mother's 3418 W. Starr Court home just outside South Peoria.

"Interestingly, place specific offenders are the most rare of the three mobility typologies - place specific, local and traveling," Walsh said of Bright.

"Offenders will change their routine for a few reasons: the fantasy changes, they perfect the methods with practice, they are trying to avoid getting caught, they are decompensating and things are becoming less controlled and possibly delusional," Walsh said. "That said, the offender will not usually change the entire experience and will maintain various signatures."

Bright, for example, continually lured all his victims with expectations of free drugs or cash for sex.

Letting some go

A handful of women felt Bright's killer grip around their throats, but got away.

Did they truly escape? Or did Bright let them go?

Van Zandt says serial killers may lure an intended victim to where they plan to kill them and find there isn't the need to kill.

"Part of the thrill for a serial killer is 'I make the decision, I choose if she dies,' " Van Zandt said. "There is nothing more Godlike to make the decision whether they live or die ... it's powerful. It's the control of life over another human being."

Other reasons may be more "simple." They just may turn out not to be the right victim, Walsh said.

"Sometimes the victim does not comply or fit the fantasy, and they are released because they are not 'worthy,' (according to the killer)," he said. Very often the offender is objectifying the victim and not seeing him or her as a person but rather as an instrument for their immediate pleasure. If the objectification is not effective or does not work or a connection is made, the victim may not fit."

Both experts say it could be something like the victim says they have a child or maybe the victim doesn't have the right body type.

The reasons can vary, but "release is pretty rare" as there is risk of getting caught, Walsh added.

Investigations

Serial murder investigations may go on for years and never get solved.

"They generally last until a suspect is caught and prosecuted," Walsh said.

Over the last three decades, the FBI has chronicled at least 32 dead women in an area a few miles on either side of Interstate 45 along the 50-mile stretch between Houston and Galveston in Texas; and the killer, known only as BTK, which stands for "Bind, Torture, Kill," claimed responsibility for seven unsolved killings in Wichita in the 1970s and an eighth in 1986. The killer was not heard from for years but then resurfaced in March with new letters.

Although Albert DeSalvo was convicted as the Boston Strangler, some were not convinced, and similar deaths popped up after DeSalvo was imprisoned and later stabbed to death.

But two serial murder task forces formed by local police in the past dozen years have snared two Peoria serial killers.

The first task force investigation, at work in 1993, caught Joseph Miller in less than a month. Miller was later convicted of killing four women in Peoria.

The latest task force was together for two to three months when Bright was eyed as a suspect and in jail on separate charges. About a month later he claimed responsibility for strangling eight African-American women. Police are still investigating whether the Peoria man is related to others. So far, Bright is charged with murdering two women, and prosecutor's say others are expected to follow.

 

20050204: Woman tells of escaping a serial killer IL Peoria Serial Killer News
An admitted prostitute has told authorities how she was threatened but eventually escaped from an Illinois man suspected of killing as many as eight women.

Vicki Bomar, 35, told the Peoria Journal Star she accepted a ride from Larry Bright while she was soliciting sex. She said Bright pretended to be a police officer, but claimed he was too tired to arrest her. He then allegedly threatened her with a knife and ordered her to strip.

"He was looking right at me but he wasn't, you know, like his mind was in a thousand other places," Bomar told the newspaper." I'm like, 'Oh God.'"

Bomar said she was able to escape from Bright by running through a field behind his house.

Her story, and a similar one from another woman, helped police arrest Bright, who has confessed to killing eight women over a 15-month period. In a hearing in which he was charged with one slaying, Bright refused the offer for a state-appointed attorney, telling the judge, "No, I would just like to plead guilty, sir."

Most of the victims had been strangled and their bodies left in rural areas.
 

20050203: Inquiries about cold cases possibly linked IL Peoria Serial Killer News
Peoria police has received inquiries from at least five other police departments asking if their cold cases could be linked to a man authorities say has confessed to eight slayings. The cases raising questions about accused murder Larry Bright include a missing acquaintance of his and a woman found dead near where he once lived in Wisconsin. Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy says Bright has been asked about at least two of the cases outside police agencies are curious about and has denied involvement. The 38-year-old former concrete worker also has denied responsibility for two other deaths in the Peoria area. Authorities say Bright has confessed to luring eight women to his rural Peoria home for sex or drugs, then strangling them. McCoy says.
 

20050203: Police: Possible Victim of Suspected Serial Killer WI Milwaukee Serial Killer News
Investigators with the Racine Police Department say they may have a new lead in a five year old unsolved homicide. 37-year old Linda Fields was found dead along Lake Drive in Racine back IN 2005. Now investigators believe a suspected serial killer in Peoria Illinois may also be responsible for Fields' death. Larry Bright, a former concrete worker has already admitted killing eight women in the Peoria area since 2000. Police say they most were prostitutes, as was, Linda Fields. Racine police say right now they have no hard evidence linking Bright to the Fields' murder, but their investigation continues and they're working with police in Peoria.
 

20050203: Racine woman believes alleged Serial Killer strangled her mother WI Milwaukee Serial Killer News
Racine Police are looking into whether an admitted serial killer in Peoria, Ill., killed Linda Fields five years ago.

Her case went cold until now.

"He's gotten away with it for five years," Lennia Fields said.

Fields is talking about the murder of her mother, Linda. She was strangled in Racine five years ago this month.

"Her body was found in the yard of a lakeshore home wearing only a nightgown with her shoes placed neatly beside her," 12 News reporter Mike Miller said.

The murder is still a mystery, but Racine police want to question 38-year-old Larry Bright.

He was arrested a few days ago in Peoria, Ill. Bright has told police there that he strangled eight African-American women.

He's even led them to some of the bodies in his yard, but he said he was not involved in the Racine murder of Linda Fields.

Bright was, however, known to be in Racine at the time, and Fields' daughter thinks he is the killer.

"Somebody told me they saw my mother leave with a white man that night and begged her not to leave with this guy because the guy was known for physically abusing ladies, and even had choked some people," Fields said.

She thinks Racine police might have worked harder to solve the case if her family hadn't been so poor.

"We didn't have no money to hire no private investigators. They knew that. They knew we were poor. We were trying to scrape up money to even bury the lady," Fields said.

Racine police said they did question Bright after Linda Fields was murdered, but there just wasn't enough evidence for an arrest -- then or now.

"I do believe he was a person of interest and he was interviewed at least, and we did look over some physical evidence. But at that point, he was not considered a suspect -- just like he 's not yet been considered a suspect here," Racine Police Sgt. William Macemon said.

Police said they have done everything possible in the case. They wonder if Bright has admitted to killing eight women in Illinois -- and even leading authorities to the bodies -- why wouldn't he admit to Linda Fields murder if he did do it?

Racine police said they do plan to question Bright again and re-examine more evidence.

But as of now, the Fields killing remains a mystery.

 

20050201: Bone fragments recovered in Peoria serial killer probe IL Peoria Serial Killer News
More than 100 charred pieces of bone have been recovered from sites where investigators say an alleged serial killer dumped the remains of eight women, authorities said Monday.

Those sites included Larry Bright’s grandmother’s home and the property he shared with his mother, but prosecutors said they do not believe the family members were aware of the killings and hidden body parts.

“Anything is possible, but there’s nothing that has piqued our interest about that,” Peoria County State’s Attorney Kevin Lyons said.

Prosecutors have charged Bright with one murder, but say he has confessed to seven others in a 11/2-year killing spree they suspect grew from Bright’s obsession with sex and pornography involving black women.

The victims all were black and lived what authorities called “questionable lifestyles,” including prostitution and drug use. The four bodies that were found were all dumped along little-traveled roads, and had been strangled, asphyxiated or died of drug overdoses, authorities said.

Altogether, four sites were excavated this weekend, including the rural Peoria property where prosecutors say Bright burned some of his victims before hiding their remains throughout Peoria and Tazewell counties.

Human remains were found on the property and at Bright’s grandmother’s house in Bellevue, just west of Peoria, Lyons said.

Additional searches are expected to begin later this week at two other sites that the 38-year-old former concrete worker provided during an 80-minute confession, Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy said.

Authorities hope DNA tests will link the bone fragments to four victims. New charges could be filed before Bright’s next scheduled court appearance Feb. 24, Lyons said.

Bright, who is white, tried to plead guilty during a bond hearing Thursday in the September slaying of 40-year-old Linda Kay Neal. But a judge rejected it and appointed the public defender’s office to represent him.

Peoria County Public Defender Thomas Penn did not immediately return a call for comment Monday.

Bright is being held without bond in the Tazewell County Jail, where authorities say he has been on suicide watch since his confession last week. He has been jailed since December, when he was charged with drug and unlawful restraint.

 

20050130: Survivors´ tips key in serial killer probe IL Peoria Serial Killer News
For more than a year, Larry Bright lured prostitutes and drug addicts to the converted garage where he lived behind his mother's house, prosecutors say. There would be sex, maybe drugs, then violence.

If the women were lucky, they got away. But in at least eight cases, authorities say, he killed the women, then dumped their bodies along rural roads or burned them to ash and bone in a backyard pit.

It was the women who escaped Bright's clutches, many of them prostitutes or others on the fringes of society, who helped lead a task force to him, authorities say.

Bright has been charged with only one slaying, but prosecutors say he confessed to seven others and they are gathering evidence to support more charges. Kevin Lyons, Peoria County state´s attorney, has not decided whether to seek the death penalty.

At his first court appearance this past week, the 38-year-old former concrete worker told a judge, "I just would like to plead guilty, sir." The judge told him to consult with a lawyer first.

The bodies of asphyxiated prostitutes and drugs users began turning up along rural roads around Peoria four years ago -- one in 2001, one in 2003, then four last year. Despite Bright's statements, the earliest slaying remains unsolved.

All six of those victims were black, and four other black women were missing. Under pressure from Peoria's black community, investigators formed a task force to find what they feared was a serial killer.

Bright had no documented history of violence, although he had spent three years in prison for burglary in the 1980s and had a few other brushes with the law, authorities say.

"He was one of those people who just wouldn´t stand out," said State's Attorney Stewart Umholtz in adjoining Tazewell County, which has been included in the search for bodies.

But Lyons said Bright apparently developed an obsession with pornography involving blacks and was a regular customer among prostitutes in this blue-collar collar city of about 120,000 people. Bright is white.

Lyons said Bright's name came up again and again as more than 1,000 tips poured in. That led authorities to about a half-dozen prostitutes who told them about barely escaping with their lives after sex with Bright turned violent, Lyons said.

Bright´s name also surfaced as police investigated the September slaying of Linda Kay Neal, 40, the only case in which he was been charged.

Customers at a bar where Neal was a regular identified Bright as a man Neal was with the night she disappeared. But he was "one of many people on the radar screen at that point," Lyons said.

"When all is said and done, it was those tips from the public and police hitting the streets that solved the case," Tazewell County Sheriff Bob Huston said.

Bright was arrested in December when tips to the task force led to charges of drug possession and aggravated unlawful restraint. Authorities alleged that he held a prostitute against her will and threatened her with a gun.

Bright's DNA matched evidence found on Neal´s body, said lawyer Joe Borsberry, who had represented Bright on the earlier charges.

Prosecutors said Bright had denied any link to the killings until police prepared to search for remains Wednesday on his mother´s property. Lyons said Bright probably wanted to spare his mother more pain.

In court last week, Lyons told the judge that Bright had picked up Neal outside a bar on Peoria's south side, in an area frequented by prostitutes. He said they went back to his home, drank, and had sex.

Then Bright strangled her, Lyons said. He drove her nude body to a remote area near Hopedale, and used a leather shoelace tied around her neck to drag her to the edge of the Mackinaw River.

Other victims were cremated in a backyard pit. He burned them for up to two days with pieces of wood, then disposed of the ash and bits of charred bone in rural areas, Lyons said.

Umholtz contends Bright feels some remorse, illustrated by his unsuccessful effort to plead guilty. "My impression is he also wanted to bring about some closure for the victims' families," Umholtz said.

Victims´ families said Bright´s confession ended long months of uncertainty.

"Everything happens for a reason; why we'll never know," said Willie Sanders, stepfather of Brenda Erving, 41, whose body was found in October in rural Peoria County.

"We have to deal with it the best we can."

 

20050129: Prostitutes Aid Illinois Serial Killer Probe IL Peoria Serial Killer News
For more than a year, Larry Bright lured prostitutes and drug addicts to the converted garage where he lived behind his mother's house, prosecutors say. There would be sex, maybe drugs. Then he would turn violent.

If the women were lucky, they got away. But in at least eight cases, authorities say, he killed the women, then dumped their bodies along rural roads or burned them to ash and bone in a backyard pit.

It was the women who escaped Bright's clutches, many of them prostitutes or others on the fringes of society, who helped lead a task force to him, authorities say.

So far, Bright has been charged with only one of the slayings, but prosecutors say he confessed to seven others and they are gathering evidence to support more charges. Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons has not decided whether to seek the death penalty.

At his first court appearance this past week, the 38-year-old former concrete worker told a judge: "I just would like to plead guilty, sir." The judge told him to consult with an attorney first.

The bodies of strangled and asphyxiated prostitutes and drugs users began turning up along rural roads around Peoria four years ago _ one in 2001, another in 2003, then four last year. Despite Bright's statements, the earliest one remains unsolved.

Under pressure from Peoria's black community _ all six of those victims were black and four other black women were missing _ investigators formed a task force to find what they feared was a serial killer.

Bright had no documented history of violence, although he had spent three years in prison for burglary in the 1980s and had a few other brushes with the law, authorities say.

"He was one of those people who just wouldn't stand out," said State's Attorney Stewart Umholtz in adjoining Tazewell County, which has been included in the search for bodies.

But Lyons said Bright apparently developed an obsession with pornography involving blacks, and became a regular customer among black prostitutes in this blue-collar collar city of about 120,000 people. Bright is white.

Lyons said Bright's name came up again and again as more than 1,000 tips poured in. That led authorities to about a half-dozen prostitutes who told them about barely escaping with their lives after sex with Bright turned violent, Lyons said.

Bright's name also surfaced as police investigated the September slaying of 40-year-old Linda Kay Neal, the only case in which he was charged.

Customers at a bar where Neal was a regular identified Bright as a man she was with the night she disappeared. But he was "one of many people on the radar screen at that point," Lyons said.

"When all is said and done, it was those tips from the public and police hitting the streets that solved the case," said Tazewell County Sheriff Bob Huston.

Bright was arrested in December, when tips to the task force led to charges of drug possession and aggravated unlawful restraint alleging he held a prostitute against her will and threatened her with a gun.

Bright's DNA matched evidence found on Neal's body, said attorney Joe Borsberry, who had represented Bright on the earlier charges.

Prosecutors said Bright had denied any link to the killings until police prepared to search for remains Wednesday on his mother's property. Lyons said Bright likely wanted to spare his mother more pain.

In court this past week, Lyons told the judge that Bright had picked up Neal outside a bar on Peoria's south side, in an area frequented by prostitutes. He said they went back to his home, drank and had sex.

Then Bright strangled her, Lyons said. He drove her nude body to a remote area near Hopedale, and used a leather shoelace tied around her neck to drag her body to the edge of the Mackinaw River.

Other victims he cremated in a backyard pit, burning them for up to two days with pieces of wood, then disposed of the ash and bits of charred bone in rural areas, Lyons said.

Umholtz thinks Bright feels some remorse, illustrated by his unsuccessful effort to plead guilty.

"My impression is he also wanted to bring about some closure for the victim's families," Umholtz said.

Victims' families said Bright's confession ended long months of uncertainty.

"Everything happens for a reason; why we'll never know," said Willie Sanders, stepfather of 41-year-old Brenda Erving, whose body was found in October in rural Peoria County. "We have to deal with it the best we can."

 

20050127: Bright Wants To Plead Guilty IL Peoria Serial Killer News
Accused murderer Larry Bright was in Peoria County court Thursday and surprised many in the courtroom by announcing he wanted to plead guilty.

Bright is now accused of the murder of Linda Neal, but charges against him related to seven other murders of African American women are expected within a short time.

Bright was brought to be arraigned on the one count of first degree murder Thursday afternoon.

He was being questioned by the judge to determine if he wanted a public defender or would he hire his own lawyer. He interrupted the judge more than once to say he wanted to plaead guilty. Despite that, the judge did appaoint a public defender.

Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons had told the court that Bright had indicated to authorities he had killed eight of the ten missing or murdered women. Later Lyons talked to reporters and WEEK-TV's Tom McIntyre asked him what might have tipped Bright top commit these crimes after no record of violence.

Lyons responded saying ''Around the time of the murders that we know he appeared to demonstrate to other people who would know him a particular attachment to African American women, sex with African American women, porn with African Americans as far as participants. Now whether that was something that was being acted out, I don't know, but it doesn't appear to be a total aberration.''

In court today was Bright's attorney on other unrelated charges. He was not surprised by Bright's admission.

Joseph Borsberry said, ''No, it didn't surprise me. I was out to the Tazewell County Jail to visit Larry earlier, so I'm not surprised by what he had to say in open court.''

Does he believe him?

''I'm not going to comment that's not my job. That's up to a jury or a judge.''

Lyons says he expects to charge Bright with the other killings shortly.

Lyons isn't saying if he'll seek the death penalty, but Bright couldn't get the death penalty unless he's convicted of multiple murders.

One of the problems prosecutors face is that while Bright seems to remember some details he's sketchy about the four women who are still missing.

Lyons said, ''The defendant indicates that he is the killer of all four. But he is certain of three. He is not entirely certain of four, because he doesn't have the ability to talk about them by name.''

But what authorities now are investigating is whether two of the ten deaths the task force has been investigating are not related to Larry Bright.

Those would be the deaths of Wanda Jackson in 2001 and Frederickia Brown in February of 2004.

Bright remains held without bond, under a suicide watch, in the Tazewell County Jail.
 

20050126: Bright Arrested for Murder IL Peoria Serial Killer News
Police have arrested a man they believe is responsible for ''the majority'' six murdered women, and possibly four missing women, in the Peoria area in the past year.

Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons announced that Larry Bright has been arrested for the murder of Linda Kay Neal, whose body was found September 25th in Tazewell County. Neal was one of ten African-American women murdered or missing in the Peoria area in the past several months.

Lyons said Bright is currently the only suspect in the six murders, and they expect to bring charges against him for ''the majority'' of those cases.

Authorities reported that they found body parts at Bright's home, and that some were burned. They said they will continue to work to identify those remains.

Police spent the day searching Brights's residence in Limestone Township. It was the second time they had searched his property in two weeks.

Lyons expects the evidence gathering at Bright's residence to continue for another day or two. He says that once they have gathered and analyzed all the evidence they will have a better idea if Bright was involved in the other murders.

On Wednesday, for the second time, Peoria County and City authorities resumed searching the home of Bright. About 7:00 Wednesday morning, police returned to Bright's Limestone Township residence.

About a dozen or more officers, including members of the task force investigating the deaths and disappearances of ten Peoria women, were searching Bright's home.

This afternoon, a person whose face was covered was escorted onto the Bright property, pointing to different areas. It is believed that person was Bright.

Police blocked off a portion of Moffatt Street, which is behind the residence. Authorities appeared to be surveying the perimeter around the house including the backyard area. They also brought in a large excavator.

Bright was already in custody, having been arrested last month on drug charges. He also faces felony unlawful restraint charges.

Bright will face first-degree murder charges for the death of Neal.

 

20060830: Serial Killer Nurse Donates Kidney To Ex-Girlfriend's Brother NJ Newark Serial Killer News
A serial killer nurse who admitted killing 29 patients donates one of his kidneys to the brother of an ex-girlfriend. Charles Cullen had threatened to skip his sentencing hearing if he was not permitted to be the donor. In February, a judge approved Cullen's removal from prison for the operation. Cullen's public defender, Johnnie Mask, says the kidney went to Ernie Peckham, 37, of Rocky Point, New York. Mask tells The Associated Press, "They have not had a chance to speak" since the operations on Aug. 20. One day after surgery, Cullen went back to New Jersey State Prison. Peckham did not return to his Long Island home for a few days. The New York Daily News reports Peckham is married with four children. He is a metalworker and Cub Scout leader who was an Army reservist. Peckham told The Village Beacon Record that his kidneys began failing after a cut on his finger became a strep infection. Cullen confessed to using drug overdoses to kill 29 patients at nursing homes and hospitals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He was sentenced to 18 life terms in prison.
 

20060822: Serial Killer Back in Prison after Surgery PA Allentown Serial Killer News
Serial killer Charles Cullen is back in prison tonight, recovering from his recent kidney donation. Cullen had the surgery on Saturday. The kidney went to a relative of one of Cullen's friends. Last year, Cullen said he would skip his sentencing unless he was allowed to donate. A judge agreed to allow the transplant and Cullen appeared before the victims' families. He's serving 18 consecutive life sentences in solitary confinement at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton.
 

20060321: Serial Killer Nurse May Donate A Kidney NJ Newark Serial Killer News
A judge clears the way for New Jersey's worst serial killer to donate a kidney. If Charles Cullen and his doctors meet certain conditions, he may undergo an operation to remove one of his kidneys. The Associated Press reports the organ would then go to the relative of a friend. Cullen admitted to killing 29 patients in nursing homes and hospitals throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Prosecutors agreed to spare him from the death penalty if he identified patients who had been given lethal drug overdoses. The judge ordered that the operation must be paid for by the recipient's insurance company. The state's medical examiners must also certify the doctors prior to the procedure.
 

20060320: Judge allows serial killer to donate kidney NJ Newark Serial Killer News

A United States judge has agreed to allow New Jersey's worst serial killer to donate a kidney, but the killer and his doctors have to meet conditions.

Judge Paul Armstrong did not say when Charles Cullen might undergo the operation to remove one of his kidneys to be transplanted into the relative of a friend.

Cullen has admitted killing 29 patients with drug overdoses at nursing homes and hospitals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in one of the worst murder sprees ever discovered in the US health care system. He has been sentenced to 18 life terms.

The judge's order, signed on Thursday, stipulates that all operation costs must be paid by the recipient's insurer.
 
Also, the surgery to remove Cullen's kidney must happen in New Jersey at a hospital certified by the state Department of Corrections, and the doctors who perform the operation must be certified by the state Board of Medical Examiners.

Cullen, 46, had tried for four months to reach an agreement with prosecutors to win permission for the donation.

His lawyer, Johnnie Mask, said the requirements made him "suspicious that someone in the Department of Corrections or at the attorney-general's office does not want this to happen".

New Jersey Attorney General's Office spokesman John Hagerty said the requirements reflect the fact that they are for "a serial killer who is not free to travel willy-nilly".

Cullen claimed to have killed 40 patients over a 16-year nursing career, and has said he killed out of mercy. Not all of his victims, however, were old or very sick.

 

20060311: Over Killer's Loud Objections, He Gets 6 More Life Terms PA Allentown Serial Killer News
Charles Cullen, a former nurse who committed one of the worst murder sprees in the United States health care system, was gagged with a cloth and duct tape at a sentencing hearing Friday after he began loudly repeating, "Your honor, you need to step down." Mr. Cullen had maintained almost complete silence every time he appeared in court, steadfastly refusing to explain why he killed at least 29 patients in two states. During an emotional sentencing hearing last week in New Jersey, he sat quietly with his eyes closed as victims' families said he was a monster and called him "garbage." But on Friday, facing another round of sentencing, this time for his murders in Pennsylvania, he infuriated the relatives of some of his victims by repeating his bizarre chant hundreds of times over 30 minutes, during which attempts to muffle him proved unsuccessful. "I feel very cheated," said Walter Henne, a relative who showed up in court to address Mr. Cullen and had to raise his voice to be heard over him. "Our last trump card was taken away from us by the childish behavior of Mr. Cullen." A judge ignored Cullen's outbursts and gave him six more life sentences. Mr. Cullen, who was sentenced last week to 11 consecutive life terms in New Jersey, administered lethal overdoses to seven patients in Pennsylvania, and tried to kill three others. Mr. Cullen had tried to avoid showing up at his sentencing hearings in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. On Friday, he told President Judge William Platt of Lehigh County that he was upset that the judge had said in a newspaper article that he was inclined to make Mr. Cullen show up at sentencing. Mr. Cullen then began repeating the statement and refused to stop. Sheriff's deputies wrapped a white cloth around Cullen's mouth, but that did little to muffle him. They added two pieces of duct tape and tried repeatedly to tighten the gag, but Mr. Cullen still managed to drown out some of the relatives and friends who were there to tell him the impact the murders had had on their lives. "We think you are a total waste of human flesh," Mr. Henne told Mr. Cullen on behalf of the family of his mother-in-law, Irene Krapf. It was not clear whether Mr. Cullen heard a word he said.
 

20060310: NJ serial killer to be sentenced in Pennsylvania PA Allentown Serial Killer News
A week ago, a former nurse who killed at least 29 patients was sent to prison for the rest of his life and confronted by his victims' relatives in New Jersey. On Friday, Charles Cullen was set to sentenced in Pennsylvania, where he was expected to again face relatives of patients he killed. Cullen, 46, pleaded guilty to 29 murders and six attempted murders in both states. He escaped the death penalty after agreeing to help prosecutors in seven counties identify patients to whom he had given lethal drug overdoses. He will serve his sentence in New Jersey. Cullen administered overdoses to seven patients at nursing homes and hospitals in Lehigh and Northampton counties, and tried to kill three others in one of the worst murder sprees ever discovered in the U.S. health care system. Cullen was to be sentenced Friday in Northampton County for the 1998 murder of 78-year-old Ottomar Schramm at Easton Hospital. Although he does not have to be present at that hearing, he has been ordered to attend his sentencing a few hours later in Allentown in Lehigh County, where he was expected to again come face-to-face with his victims' families. Last week, relatives of the 22 New Jersey victims confronted Cullen after he received 11 consecutive life terms, calling him a "monster" and "vermin." Cullen said nothing, his eyes closed. Cullen, who claims to have slain 40 patients over a 16-year nursing career, has said he killed out of mercy. Many of his victims were old and very sick. But the judge who sentenced Cullen in New Jersey told him he "betrayed the ancient foundations of the healing professions." Cullen was arrested in December 2003 after Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, N.J., notified prosecutors about questionable lab results involving patients under his care. The case prompted lawmakers in both states to pass legislation protecting hospitals and nursing homes from legal action when reporting disciplinary actions taken against employees.
 

20060304: How can a serial killer escape the death penalty? NJ Somerville Serial Killer News

A MALE nurse who admits killing up to forty patients with lethal injections has been spared a similar fate through an extraordinary plea bargain in which he pledged to help to identify his victims.

Charles Cullen, 46, a loner with a history of depression and suicide attempts, will escape the death penalty in return for pleading guilty to at least twenty-nine murders and co-operating with investigators looking into other suspicious deaths.

Cullen says that he poisoned up to forty people with hard to-detect medications — usually the heart drug digoxin — during a 16-year career working night shifts at ten nursing homes and hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

He has told authorities, however, that he cannot remember the names of four of his victims and that he randomly injected insulin into intravenous medical bags without knowing which patient they were for.

Prosecutors in all seven counties where he worked have agreed to spare his life in return for his help in identifying all those he killed.

As the families of victims harangued him as a “monster”, “one pathetic little man”, and “Satan’s son”, Cullen was sentenced on Thursday to 11 consecutive life terms for 22 murders and 3 attempted murders in Somerset County, New Jersey. That meant that it would be 397 years before he became eligible for parole.

He is due to be sentenced next Friday for seven more murders and three attempted murders in Pennsylvania.

Investigations remain open in two other New Jersey counties, complicated by the destruction of medical records and the uncertainty of Cullen’s memory.

Cullen is one of the worst serial killers discovered inside America’s health-care system, but he is not alone. Since 1975 there have been about twenty cases of medical personnel involved in the deaths of patients, including a notorious 1987 case in which Donald Harvey, a nurse, was sentenced to life in prison for killing at least thirty-four patients in Ohio and Kentucky.

Cullen was fired from five nursing jobs and resigned from two others amid questions about his conduct but he always found another job, partly because hospitals kept quiet to avoid being sued.

He went on a murder spree in December 2003, killing 13 patients in less than a year at the Somerset Medical Centre in New Jersey. He was caught when hospital officials discovered unusually high levels of digoxin in the victims.

He told police after his arrest that he had targeted “very sick” patients for what he described as mercy killings.

The facts contradicted his claim. His youngest victim was a 21-year-old student named Michael Strenko, who had been admitted to hospital for a non-fatal blood disorder that required doctors to remove his spleen.

Cullen also killed a 22-year-old car crash victim, Matthew Mattern, who was in hospital with severe burns.

 

20060303: Serial killer nurse gets 11 life terms for killing patients NJ Somerville Serial Killer News
 

A nurse who killed at least 29 patients was sent to prison for the rest of his life Thursday after his victims' loved ones angrily branded him ''vermin,'' ''garbage'' and a ''monster'' who ruined lives and shattered their faith in the medical profession.

Charles Cullen escaped the death penalty after making a deal with prosecutors to tell them which patients he killed with hard-to-detect drug injections.

Cullen, 46, pleaded guilty to murdering 22 people in New Jersey and trying to kill three others. He will be sentenced later for seven murders and three attempted murders in Pennsylvania. He has claimed to have killed up to 40 people during a career that spanned 16 years and 10 nursing homes and hospitals.

He received 11 consecutive life terms at a tense hearing in which he came face-to-face with his victims' families for the first time. Wearing a bulletproof vest under his sweater, Cullen sat quietly as relatives wept and yelled at him from a lectern about 15 feet away. Some said they wished Cullen could die as his victims did, by lethal injection.

''I want you to die tomorrow so that you can meet God tomorrow because guess what? There ain't no door out of hell, baby,'' said Debra Yetter Medina, the granddaughter of victim Mary Natoli.

 

20060302: Killer nurse gets 11 life sentences NJ Somerville Serial Killer News
On the day New Jersey's most prolific serial killer received 11 consecutive life sentences, family members of his victims gave the former nurse a verbal lashing in court.

Some had waited years, and defendant Charles Cullen had filed court papers trying to avoid the confrontation.

One by one, for nearly four hours, two dozen relatives of the dead told a New Jersey judge what Cullen had taken from them.

Some called Cullen names -- "Satan's son" or "monster" -- and told him to "burn in hell." Others simply remembered their lost loved ones.

Judge Paul W. Armstrong then handed down 11 consecutive life sentences. Parole is out of the question, since Cullen, 46, will not be eligible until he has served 397 years.

Cullen has pleaded guilty to committing 22 murders in New Jersey and seven in Pennsylvania. He also admitted attempting to murder six people.

Deaths not mercy killings

Cullen administered lethal doses of medication to patients under his care in nursing homes and medical facilities. He claimed at one point that he was an angel of mercy trying to end his patients' suffering.

But the judge rejected that notion. He said the court "would not countenance the characterization of these crimes as acts of human compassion."

Cullen said nothing during the hearing, sitting beside his attorney with his hands in his lap and his eyes lowered. His lack of visible emotion seemed to enrage some relatives of his victims.

They had plenty to say.

Dolores Stasienko called Cullen a monster for killing her father, Jack Toto, whom she described as a hard-working farmer, mechanic and war veteran.

"Burn in hell, Mr. Cullen, for all eternity," she said.

"Am I boring you?" asked Deborah Yetter-Medina, whose grandmother was killed. "Look at me," she demanded.

"Yes, I was the woman who coined the phrase 'Satan's son,'" she said. "You are Satan's son." Later, she told Cullen: "There ain't no doors out of hell, babe."

Richard Stoecker, whose mother, Eleanor, also was a victim, told Cullen: "Maybe you thought you could play God that day by injecting her, but she planned on living, she was a fighter."

As many as 40 victims

As part of his plea agreement, Cullen has been working with law enforcement officials to identify additional victims. He originally told authorities he killed up to 40 patients during the course of his 16-year nursing career.

Last month, when a deal to allow Cullen to donate a kidney to a friend fell through, he filed court papers seeking to waive his appearance at sentencing. (Full story)

The move outraged victim family members, some of whom have said addressing Cullen is an important part of their grieving process.

"He has to hear that we're human beings and that our father, son, mother, whoever, were human beings," said John Shanagher, whose father, Jack, was killed by Cullen. "Hopefully it will give us some sense of justice that it's, after all this time, finally done."

The judge ruled Cullen had to be present for victim impact statments and sentencing. Cullen will be allowed to donate his kidney now that he has been sentenced.

 

20060224: Serial killer must face victims' kin NJ Somerville Serial Killer News

Judge rules that killer nurse can't skip sentencing hearing

Serial killer Charles Cullen must listen to statements by relatives of his victims when he is sentenced for 22 murders, a New Jersey judge ruled Friday.

Cullen, a former nurse, had asked the court to waive his appearance at the sentencing March 2.

The move outraged victims' family members, some of whom said addressing Cullen is an important part of their grieving process.

"He has to hear that we're human beings and that our father, son, mother, whoever, were human beings," said John Shanagher, whose father, Jack, was killed by Cullen.

"Hopefully it will give us some sense of justice that it's, after all this time, finally done," he added.

Superior Court Judge Paul W. Armstrong also ruled Friday that Cullen will be allowed to donate a kidney to a friend after he is sentenced.

Where the organ will be harvested remains an issue. Cullen wants to have the operation performed in New York. New Jersey officials say it must be done in that state.

Cullen has pleaded guilty to murdering 29 hospital patients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and attempting to murder six others, with drug injections.

As part of his plea agreement, he has been working with law enforcement officials to identify additional victims. He originally told authorities he had killed up to 40 patients in the course of his 16-year nursing career.

Armstrong ruled Friday that Cullen "possesses no fundamental right" by law to be absent from his sentencing, when the court will hear statements by the victims' families.

Cullen had withdrawn his request, but the judge went ahead with a ruling to prevent Cullen from changing his mind later.

 

20060217: Again, a Serial Killer Plans to Skip His Own Sentencing NJ PA Serial Killer News

A carefully constructed deal between the authorities and the convicted serial killer Charles Cullen to allow him to donate a kidney to a friend in exchange for showing up at his own sentencing has fallen apart, his lawyer said yesterday.

The authorities had hoped this month to sentence Mr. Cullen, a former nurse who has confessed to murdering up to 40 patients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Many relatives of his victims have been waiting for the day they can face him in court.

But that day, once again, seems far off. At a meeting yesterday, New Jersey authorities and Mr. Cullen's lawyer could not agree on the specifics of the kidney donation, and Mr. Cullen will now fight to skip his sentencing, his lawyer, Johnnie Mask, said.

"There is no deal now," Mr. Mask said. "We're nowhere."

Under New Jersey legal procedures, defendants can apply to skip their sentencing. Mr. Cullen initially indicated he would do this, provoking the ire of prosecutors and relatives of his victims.

But in December, Peter C. Harvey, then New Jersey's attorney general, announced that he had worked out a plan in which Mr. Cullen could donate his kidney if he agreed to come to his sentencing first. A memorandum of understanding was signed, and a transplant team at Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island, where Mr. Cullen's friend is a patient, agreed to do the surgery.

But Mr. Harvey left office in January, after New Jersey's new governor, Jon S. Corzine was sworn in. Officials at the attorney general's office and in the Corrections Department have now decided that Mr. Cullen cannot leave the state for the kidney operation because New Jersey officials do not have the authority to provide security in New York.

Mr. Mask said that prosecutors had yet to come up with a viable plan for the operation to be done in New Jersey. Until they do, Mr. Cullen will do everything in his power, including filing numerous appeals, to avoid his sentencing, he said.

"We're not going to give up what little leverage we have until we know this kidney operation is going to happen," Mr. Mask said. State officials, he said, "have been throwing up roadblocks ever since Harvey left."

John Hagerty, a spokesman at the attorney general's office, said that Mr. Cullen's sentencing has been scheduled for March 2 but that there are issues that could delay that. A presentencing hearing has been set for next week.

Mr. Hagerty said state officials "continue to work with local prosecutors so the sentencing can proceed."

 

20060113: Serial Killer Using Loophole That Delays His Sentencing NJ Newark Serial Killer News

First, he wrangled a way to avoid the death penalty, even though he confessed to murdering up to 40 people. Then, he tried to dictate the terms of his final court appearance. Now, he is refusing to cooperate.

Apparently, Charles Cullen, a New Jersey nurse who confessed to sneaking into hospital rooms late at night and injecting patient after patient with deadly amounts of drugs, is trying to exert his last bits of leverage from a solo cell in the Somerset County jail before he is sent away for life.

His maneuvering is infuriating the families of his victims and delaying their long-awaited rendezvous in court. It is also making a strange case even stranger, partly because of what was, until now, a little-known legal wrinkle in New Jersey that allows defendants to skip their sentencing.

"Can't we just get this over with?" said Lucille Gall, whose brother Mr. Cullen has admitted killing. "This is a sick little game he's playing."

Most of the prosecutors in the case seem unfazed or, at least, they talk that way.

"We don't need him anymore," said Wayne J. Forrest, prosecutor for Somerset County, N.J., where Mr. Cullen confessed to 13 murders. "We've completed our investigation. We got our guilty pleas. We're done."

John Morganelli, district attorney for Northampton County, Pa., where Mr. Cullen admitted killing one patient, said, "I could go to court right now and get a conviction, with or without his cooperation."

But in Essex County, it is a different story. Mr. Cullen told investigators he thinks he killed five patients at a hospital near Newark. The problem is, he does not remember whom. Until recently, he had been meeting regularly with Essex investigators, studying old charts, peering into old photos, trying to jog his memory.

So far, Mr. Cullen, 45, has pleaded guilty to murdering 29 patients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania medical facilities. Most of his victims were old and sick.

After he was arrested in 2003, he agreed to help investigators identify all of his victims - he estimated there were up to 40 - in exchange for avoiding the death penalty.

But the deal began to fray last month, when Mr. Cullen announced he wanted to donate a kidney to an ailing friend. The authorities said he could do it only after his sentencing, which Mr. Cullen threatened to miss.

Many lawyers said that this was the first time they had ever heard of a serial killer trying to skip his sentencing. Earlier this month, prosecutors indefinitely delayed Mr. Cullen's sentencing, saying they needed more time to investigate the Essex cases and one mysterious death in Morris County. A few days later, Mr. Cullen struck back, saying through his public defender that he was finished cooperating.

"This isn't about a power trip, this is about a kidney," said his lawyer, Johnnie Mask. "Charlie's worried that if the sentencing keeps getting pushed back, it may be too late. He really cares about saving this life, ironic as that may seem."

On Friday, Peter C. Harvey, New Jersey's attorney general, said a new possibility had emerged: Mr. Cullen could be sentenced for the crimes to which he had already confessed, he could donate his kidney and then he could continue cooperating with the authorities on any open cases. "Our goal is to bring finality," Mr. Harvey said.

He added that prosecutors were mulling the options. If talks break down, there is an outside chance the plea agreement could be nullified and Mr. Cullen tried in court, exposing him to the death penalty.

What is giving Mr. Cullen his 11th-hour leverage is New Jersey's criminal procedure rule 3:21-4 (b), which says, "Sentence shall not be imposed unless the defendant is present or has filed a written waiver of the right to be present."

Mr. Mask and other defense lawyers say the law is on their side and that precedent upholds a defendant's right to opt out of sentencing.

Prosecutors, on the other hand, say judges have the ultimate discretion and can order sheriff's deputies to drag Mr. Cullen to court. Both sides vow to press their case aggressively, which only raises the specter of a long appeals process.

And now there's another potential complication. Christopher Bateman, a Republican assemblyman from Somerville, is pushing a bill that would force defendants to come to their sentencing. "It's only right that the families get to inflict a little pain, so to speak," he said.

But all the back and forth seems to be only compounding the pain.

"We want to know how Cullen, a criminal, a murderer, thinks he has so much power to decide what he can do and cannot do?" Tom and Mary Strenko wrote in an e-mail interview. "He is a killer and he has no right to decide anything!"

The Strenkos' 21-year-old son, Michael, was hospitalized in 2003 with a serious but curable blood disease. Mr. Cullen has confessed to killing him. "We are not giving up on this! No way!" the Strenkos continued. "It is as important to us as breathing air to have Charles Cullen once again look into our loathing eyes to personally see and hear the pain and suffering he has caused us for the rest of our lives!"

 

20060110: Serial Killer, Angry at Sentencing Delay, Stops Cooperating NJ Newark Serial Killer News

The New Jersey nurse who confessed to killing 29 people and has spent nearly two years cooperating with investigators decided abruptly on Tuesday that he would no longer help them.

The nurse, Charles Cullen, 45, was so upset about his sentencing being canceled last week that he is pulling out of a carefully constructed plea deal in which he had agreed to help identify his victims in exchange for not facing the death penalty, his lawyer, Johnnie Mask, said.

The authorities said that his refusal to cooperate could mean that prosecutors will seek the death penalty. It could also mean that many mysterious hospital deaths will not be resolved, leaving family members to forever wonder if their loved ones died naturally or were murdered.

Mr. Cullen has told the authorities he killed up to 40 people, many of them old and ailing patients whom he injected with lethal doses of heart drugs. But he did not remember all their names. So investigators have been struggling to identify them and, until Tuesday, were working closely with Mr. Cullen, sifting through mountains of medical records in the effort to jog his memory to determine exactly whom he killed.

The cooperation may now be coming to an end because of a kidney. In a strange concession to coax Mr. Cullen to come to his own sentencing and face dozens of grieving family members, New Jersey authorities agreed in December to allow him to donate a kidney to an ailing friend, as long as the operation was performed after his sentencing. But last week the authorities delayed the sentencing indefinitely, saying they needed more time to investigate hospital deaths in Morris and Essex Counties that Mr. Cullen may have caused. Mr. Cullen lost his patience, his lawyer said, and decided he would no longer help investigators.

"The deal is off," Mr. Mask said. "He's done. No more cooperation. Period."

"Now it's on the prosecutors' shoulders whether somebody else dies," Mr. Mask added, referring to the man who is waiting for a kidney donation.

Peter C. Harvey, New Jersey's attorney general, called that notion "ridiculous" and said it was not the prosecutors' role to find a new kidney for Mr. Cullen's friend.

"Our job is to protect the victims," Mr. Harvey said.

He also said, "It's strange that all of a sudden this guy has become a humanitarian after killing 22 people in New Jersey."

Paula T. Dow, the prosecutor for Essex County, where Mr. Cullen has admitted to killing several people, said Mr. Cullen's refusal to cooperate was "a clear breach of the plea agreement" and that "it now exposes him" to being brought back to court to face trial and possibly the death penalty.

But the reality of his ever being executed, at least in New Jersey, is slim because the state has not put anyone to death since 1963, and this week the Legislature passed a temporary moratorium on capital punishment. However, Mr. Cullen has admitted to seven murders in Pennsylvania, which does have the death penalty.

The authorities said on Tuesday that they were not sure if Mr. Cullen's action was a ploy to speed up donation of the kidney, or if he truly intended not to cooperate ever again. They added that they were unsure of what they would do next.

The development was the latest twist in a long case that began in 1987 at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J. Mr. Cullen had a history of mental illness and suicidal behavior and gravitated to the night shift, where he was known among colleagues as solitary and strange, with a cold bedside manner.

In 1993 he was accused of killing a 91-year-old woman with a single injection of digoxin, a powerful heart drug that became his weapon of choice. But somehow he slipped through the cracks of the medical system and went on to work at 10 places in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania before he was arrested in 2003.

In 2004, he struck a deal with the authorities in both states to plead guilty and cooperate in exchange for at least two consecutive life terms, which in New Jersey meant he would not be eligible for parole for 126 years. But in December, as sentencing approached, problems arose, partly because of a little-known procedural rule that allows a defendant to skip his sentencing. Mr. Cullen said he might do that and deny his victims' families a chance to confront him.

Now it is not clear what will happen, with some prosecutors saying Mr. Cullen will be dragged into court, no matter what, while others are not so sure.

 

20060102: Serial killer nurse to face the families of victims NJ Newark Serial Killer News
This could be the week that Marie Romero finally gets to look Charles Cullen straight in the eye and tell him how much pain he caused by killing her sister.

Romero’s sister, Catherine Dext, was killed with an injection by the former nurse and admitted serial killer in June 1996 at Hunterdon Medical Center, where she had been admitted with a ruptured spleen.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled to begin Thursday for Cullen, who pleaded guilty to 29 murders and six attempted murders during his 16-year nursing career in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Cullen, 44, has told investigators he might have killed as many as 40 persons, but authorities say that estimate appears to be inflated. Most of the victims were given an overdose of heart medication, usually digoxin.

The former critical-care nurse was able to move from hospital to hospital, despite suspicions he was killing patients, because the institutions did not report their fears to authorities.

The sentencing may stretch out over two days because so many victims’ relatives want to give victim-impact statements.

Cullen had filed papers to waive his right to appear at his sentencing, a move that outraged many of the families.

However, authorities had something Cullen wanted: the right to approve his request to donate a kidney to a relative of Cullen’s ex-girlfriend. With that leverage, authorities persuaded Cullen to agree to appear at the sentencing.

Cullen faces life for each of the New Jersey murders, and won’t be eligible for parole for at least 127 years. In exchange for his plea and agreement to help identify his victims, he escaped New Jersey’s death penalty.

State Attorney General Peter Harvey said he hopes to have all 22 New Jersey cases against Cullen resolved in this week’s sentencing. However, the sentencing could be postponed if no decision is made on whether to also bring charges in several open cases in Essex and Morris counties.

He also escaped death in Pennsylvania, where he still faces sentencing.

A judge there already has ordered him to be present.

 

20051207: Serial killer wants to donate kidney Serial Killer News

Former nurse Charles Cullen, who admitted murdering at least 29 patients in the Lehigh Valley and New Jersey by injecting them with lethal doses of drugs, wants to donate his kidney to save a life.

Cullen has asked prosecutors to allow him to travel to New York so doctors can perform the surgery, his attorney said Tuesday.

Johnnie Mask, Cullen's public defender, said prosecutors have agreed to let Cullen undergo the operation in New Jersey, but not travel to New York for it.

''I don't know what the objections are'' to doing the surgery in New York, Mask said. ''Security and expense have always been thrown up as an obstacle.''

Doing the transplant in New Jersey would mean a new transplant team and months of additional tests, he said.

In exchange for permission to give the kidney in New York, Cullen is willing to appear in court when he is sentenced to life in prison, Mask said.

''We're pushing prosecutors to do the operation in New York because the [potential recipient] doesn't have seven months to wait,'' Mask said.

Mask would not identify the intended recipient of the kidney, but The Star-Ledger of Newark, citing unnamed sources, reported in Tuesday's newspapers that it is a relative of Cullen's ex-girlfriend.

The man is in his 30s, a father of four and in poor health, Mask added. He lost kidney function as a result of infection.

Mask said the request for a kidney came about two months ago.

''Initially, some parties opposed the whole thing on the basis that Cullen could die on the table,'' he said.

Cullen, formerly of Bethlehem, had previously filed papers to waive his right to appear in court for the sentencing — an action that had enraged relatives of his victims, who want to confront him one more time.

At one point after Cullen's 2003 arrest, Mask said Cullen wanted to be able to explain his actions to his victims' survivors. But his position changed, Mask said, because the victims' families and victim-rights groups have been hostile.

By appearing at a sentencing, Cullen could answer at least some questions about his crimes.

Mask said he hopes to get an answer in the next few weeks on the transplant and any deal related to Cullen's appearance at the sentencings, which could come in the next few months.

Somerset County Prosecutor Wayne Forrest would not comment Tuesday on the transplant offer or the deal Cullen has proposed.

In a series of court appearances in northern New Jersey and the Lehigh Valley, Cullen has admitted to 29 murders and six attempted murders over the course of his 16-year nursing career. In the latest plea Monday, he admitted to attempting to kill Somerset Medical Center patient Philip Gregor in 2003.

There could be more pleas in the future, though authorities and Mask agree that the investigations are winding down.

Cullen was arrested in December 2003 and charged with the murder of a patient at Somerset Medical Center and the attempted homicide of another. The next year, he pleaded guilty and agreed to help authorities determine exactly whom he killed in exchange for avoiding the death penalty.

 

20051206: Serial killer admits another attempted murder while a nurse NJ Somerville Serial Killer News
Serial killer Charles Cullen on Mondy pleaded guilty to another attempted murder at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, in what his attorney predicted would probably be his last plea.

In a proceeding lasting less than 10 minutes in state Superior Court, Cullen, 45, a former nurse, admitted before Judge Paul W. Armstrong to attempting to kill critical care patient Philip J. Gregor of South Bound Brook with an overdose of insulin on June 18, 2003.

"Yes, I did," said Cullen when asked by Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Van Hise if he had administered the insulin to the patient without a doctor's orders. "To cause his death" was Cullen's reply when he was asked why.

The answers have become increasingly rote for Cullen, who has pleaded guilty to killing 29 patients at hospitals in five New Jersey and two Pennsylvania counties and attempting to kill five more between 1988 and 2003.

"News of every heinous act he committed to a patient in his care still shocks and saddens us," said hospital spokeswoman Vicky Allen.

Cullen, shackled and clad in mustard-colored prison scrubs, was brought to the courtroom from the Somerset County Jail in Somerville, where he is being held pending his transfer upon sentencing to a maximum security prison.

He has appeared increasingly gaunt since his arrest and arraignment following a series of suspicious deaths at Somerset Medical Center in December 2003.

Compared with Cullen's earlier appearances, the courtroom was almost empty. although Gregor's widow and sister were present, they declined to comment. "When he's sentenced, I'll have a whole lot to say," said Linda Gregor.

Cullen's plea was part of an April 29, 2004, plea agreement in which he was spared the death penalty in exchange for cooperating with investigators in identifying victims. Investigators have since been reviewing files with him.

 

20050710: New Revelations about Convicted Serial Killer Nurse PA Bethlehem Serial Killer News

Nurses who worked with serial killer Charles Cullen at a Pennsylvania hospital apparently warned authorities long before his arrest that he was suspected of killing patients.

That's according to a report today in The Morning Call of Allentown.

But Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin says there just wasn't enough evidence at the time to prosecute Cullen for anything.

And the forensic pathologist who investigated agrees.The pathologist reviewed 26 cases of patients who died while Cullen was working at Saint Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem.

He says the only evidence beyond "vague suspicions" was medical histories of people who died -- but who were already very sick.

After leaving Saint Luke's, Cullen worked at Somerset Medical Center in New Jersey, where he has admitted killing patients.

 

20050520: Cullen tells AG basic security could stop killer nurses NJ Somerville Serial Killer News

The state's worst serial killer is offering authorities tips on how to thwart people who want to follow in his footsteps.

Killer nurse Charles Cullen met for eight hours over two days this week with state Attorney General Peter Harvey, who wanted to find out how to prevent future murders by medical professionals.

Cullen, who says he may have killed as many as 40 patients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania by injecting them with lethal doses of drugs, told Harvey that tracking who takes medications from dispensaries could prevent hospital workers from killing patients.

"He believes that the best deterrent is the certainty of detection," Harvey told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Friday's newspapers. "Using more video surveillance. Using a swipe card that would allow hospitals to easily track who is withdrawing what medication. These are security controls that can be placed on rooms that house medications."

Thus far, Cullen has pleaded guilty to murdering 24 patients and attempting to kill five others

The meetings Wednesday and Thursday were part of what Cullen agreed to last year when he promised to cooperate with law enforcement authorities in return for avoiding the death penalty. Harvey said he plans to speak again with Cullen.

"Once we complete our discussions with him, we are going to compile a series of recommendations that we're going to give to the Board of Medical Examiners and the nursing board with suggestions of how to better protect patients and hospitals," Harvey said. "We're going to ask for their input and action."

Cullen, a former registered nurse, worked at hospitals and nursing facilities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania over a 16-year career.

Harvey said the 45-year-old Cullen showed some remorse _ an emotion that he has not displayed in court.

"He accepts more responsibility than he expresses remorse, but he certainly does both," Harvey said. "I didn't expect it."

 

20050511: Siblings assert serial killer nurse murdered father Serial Killer News

The children of a former Madison resident say they have compelling proof that Charles Cullen, serial killer nurse, killed their father with massive doses of digoxin in January 1997 at Morristown Memorial Hospital.

Lynn Popelka of Netcong and Wayne Sarrow of Readington Township paid to have the remains of their father, Henry Sarrow, disinterred from Saint Vincent’s Cemetery in Madison in February and examined, they said on Wednesday, April 13, at the office of their attorney, Anthony J. Macri of Denville.

Cullen, who is in the Somerset County Jail, denies killing the retired postal worker while he worked at Morristown Memorial from November 1996 to August 1997, according to the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office. He has admitted to killing 24 patients, from 1988 to 2003, but none at Morristown Memorial, authorities said.

So far, Popelka and Sarrow have sued Morristown Memorial, alleging wrongful death and negligence, said attorney Macri, who added that he expects “a long fight.”

Macri said that autopsy reports have been sent to the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, an office the siblings claim was unresponsive to past concerns that Cullen was responsible for their father’s death.

Autopsy Results

Henry Sarrow had been admitted to Morristown Memorial on Jan. 9, 1997, because of shortness of breath, and on Jan. 15 he suffered a fatal heart attack, which the family said was not expected. He was 77.

When Mr. Sarrow’s remains were analyzed after the February exhumation, they were found to have digoxin levels of 230 nanograms per kilogram, when a normal level should be 2 nanograms per kilogram, according to Macri’s office.

The levels of digoxin, a heart medication, found in Mr. Sarrow’s body were 125 times the amount that would be found in someone who was being given therapeutic doses, the family and its attorney assert. Such a scenario would fit Cullen’s preferred method of killing – administering overdoses of digoxin.

Mr. Sarrow had worked as a school crossing guard for the Madison Board of Education after his retirement as a postal worker.

Recognized Nurse

After Cullen was arrested in 2003 on charges that he administered a lethal overdose to one patient and attempted to murder another at the Somerset Medical Center, Popelka reportedly recognized Cullen from news photos as a nurse at Morristown Memorial during her father’s hospitalization.

According to attorney Macri, hospital records show Cullen was on duty during overnight hours before two cardiac episodes Mr. Sarrow suffered at Morristown Memorial, the second one fatal.

Cullen is reviewing records from hospitals where he worked, including Morristown Memorial, cooperating with authorities in exchange for a waiver of the death penalty. He is expected to be sentenced to multiple life terms in prison.

 

20041231: Serial killer spends time reading and doing “homework” NJ Somerville Serial Killer News

CULLEN scans medical files to determine if any patients were his victims.
Life in the Somerset County jail is a little like life aboard the USS Woodrow Wilson, the submarine where Charles CULLEN spent months isolated in the deep waters of the Atlantic. In jail, CULLEN has limited space, a bunk to sleep in, and three square meals served with military precision. He has reading material, time on his hands, and no place to go: the cold steel walls of the sub (where CULLEN developed an interest in nursing by helping to inoculate his shipmates) have been replaced by the cold stone walls of justice.
The only times serial killer Charles CULLEN leaves the jail is to travel to various county courts to admit he murdered patients at the 10 medical facilities where he worked in New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. CULLEN claims to have killed as many as 40 patients during his 16-year career.
CULLEN has made five such trips so far, pleading guilty to killing 24 patients and attempting to kill five others by injecting them with various medications that he stole from the hospital's drug supplies. There will be others.
In exchange for his cooperation and guilty pleas, authorities waived the death penalty and CULLEN instead must serve at least 127 years in a New Jersey state prison before he is eligible for parole. For now, CULLEN will remain inmate No. 71533 in the Somerset County jail, on the corner of Grove and High streets in Somerville and across from the prosecutor's office where he first admitted his deep, dark secret to detectives after being arrested last December.

 

20041117: Serial killer nurse pleads guilty to murders in Lehigh County PA Allentown Serial Killer News
Serial killer Charles Cullen pleaded guilty today to six murders and three attempted murders in Lehigh County, bringing the former nurse's tally to 23 deaths in two states...Whispering his replies to a judge's routine questions, Cullen, 44, formerly of Bethlehem, offered no details or excuses to the victims' relatives, dozens of whom packed the Allentown courtroom..."He took something away that was so precious to us and we're never going to forgive him," said Connie Keeler, of Bethlehem, whose father Cullen tried to kill..."He shows no emotion to what he did," she said...Keeler's father, Lehigh Valley radio personality Paul Galgon, 72, died of renal failure at St. Luke's Hospital near Bethlehem nine hours after Cullen injected him with the heart stimulant digoxin. Forensic evidence showed that the digoxin contributed to Galgon's death...Family members were not given a chance to address Cullen today, but are expected to have that opportunity at his sentencing, which may be a year away. Judge William Platt denied Cullen's request to be absent during sentencing, which won't occur until after Cullen is sentenced in New Jersey...Cullen has yet to meet with prosecutors in Essex County, where he worked in the burn unit at St. Barnabas Hospital for four years; or in Hunterdon County, where he worked at Hunterdon Medical Center for two years. His attorney, Johnny Mask, said it appears that Cullen did not kill anyone in Morris County, where he worked in 1997...Cullen has pleaded guilty to murdering patients in hospitals in Somerset County and Warren County, in New Jersey, and in Northampton County, in Pennsylvania. Usually, he injected overdoses into the intravenous bag of terminally ill, elderly patients. His youngest known victim was Matthew Mattern, a 22-year-old patient the burn unit at Lehigh Valley Hospital near Allentown...Cullen will be sentenced to life in prison as part of a plea agreement worked out with prosecutors in both states. He told authorities after his arrest in December that he killed as many as 40 patients in 10 hospitals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey during his 16-year career as a registered nurse. Prosecutors have agreed not to seek the death penalty as long as Cullen cooperates by identifying his victims.
 

20041106: Pa. judge rejects serial killer's intention to skip sentencing PA Allentown Serial Killer News
A former nurse who has admitted killing 17 patients with lethal doses of medication at hospitals in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania will have to attend his sentencing hearing and face the families of his alleged victims in Lehigh County, a judge has ruled. ..Cullen, 44, is scheduled to plead guilty Nov. 17 in Lehigh County Court to six counts of homicide and three counts of attempted homicide. Families won't be able to confront him at the hearing but will be able to do so when Cullen returns to court for his sentencing, likely next year. ..On Tuesday, Judge William H. Platt told Cullen's attorneys that he will not accept Cullen's waiver of his right to appear at the sentencing. ..Cullen's attorney, public defender Johnnie Mask, said he was not happy with Platt's decision but does not intend to fight it. ..After his arrest in December, Cullen told investigators that he killed as many as 40 people during his nursing career. He has pleaded guilty or been charged in a total of 23 murders and has agreed to help investigators identify his victims in a deal to avoid the death penalty. ..The families of several of Cullen's alleged Lehigh County victims were pleased with the judge's decision. .."He needs to be there to face us," said Connie Keeler, the daughter of Paul Galgon, 72, a St. Luke's Hospital patient authorities said Cullen attempted to kill in 2001. "He should have to look into each of our faces and see the pain we are going through." ..When Cullen pleaded guilty to a single killing in Northampton County in September, the daughter of the elderly victim called Cullen a monster, talked about her father's life, and asked Cullen whether he remembered his victims. ..Mask said the hearing was hard on his client, and he would prefer to avoid them. ..In Lehigh County, Cullen is accused of killing five people and attempting to kill two others at St. Luke's Hospital in Fountain Hill, where he worked from June 2000 to June 2002, and killing one person and attempting to kill another at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Salisbury Township, where he worked from December 1998 to April 2000. ..In neighboring Northampton County, he pleaded guilty to killing one person at Easton Hospital. ..In New Jersey, Cullen has pleaded guilty to killing 16 people and attempting to kill two others at Somerset Medical Center and Warren Hospital. ..Under his plea agreement, Cullen will be sentenced to life in prison in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and will serve the sentence in New Jersey. He will not be eligible for parole for at least 127 years. .
 

20041030: Serial Killer Seeking to Skip Sentencing PA Allentown Serial Killer News
A district attorney said he is trying to determine whether serial killer Charles Cullen can be compelled to appear in court so relatives of the patients he is accused of killing can confront him if he is sentenced to life in prison...Cullen, a former registered nurse, is expected to plead guilty in the next few weeks to charges he killed six patients at two hospitals with lethal doses of medication. Under the proposed plea agreement, Cullen would be spared the death penalty in exchange for helping to identify his victims...Cullen already has pleaded guilty to killing 17 during a 16-year career at hospitals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey...Cullen has said through his attorney he wants to waive his right to be in court at sentencing...But District Attorney James Martin says he will do research to determine whether there is a legal way to force Cullen to appear. "In all my years doing this, I've never seen a defendant not come to his sentencing," he said...Margory Blakemore, daughter of Edward O'Toole, who died at St. Luke's Hospital in Fountain Hill in 2002, said she and other relatives should have the right to address Cullen face to face. "He should have to hear about how much pain he's caused," she said.. .
 


Copyright 1995-2005 by Elisabeth Wetsch
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