The daughter of the man critical care nurse Charles Cullen is suspected of killing at Easton Hospital said Monday she doesn't support executing Cullen, especially if he gives a full list of the people he claims to have killed.
"I would like to see him in jail, but I wouldn't like to see him have the death penalty," said Kristina Toth, daughter of Ottomar A. Schramm, who died at Easton Hospital on Dec. 31, 1998, after he was given a lethal unprescribed injection of digoxin, a heart medication.
Speaking at a news conference at the Holiday Inn at Routes 512 and 22 in Hanover Township, Toth and the family's attorney, Martin Cohen, were critical of Easton Hospital's handling of its internal investigation of the death, details of which the hospital has not released.
"It upsets me very much if he could have been stopped then just look at how many people could still be alive today," Toth said.
Cullen, 43, of Bethlehem, is the only suspect in the 78-year-old Schramm's death, according to Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, and faces murder and attempted murder charges in the deaths of two patients at Somerset Medical Center in New Jersey. Those patients also were injected with lethal doses of digoxin.
Somerset County investigators say Cullen told them that he killed as many as 40 people during his 16-year nursing career.
Cullen's public defender, Johnnie Mask, has made published statements that his client would withhold the names of his victims unless guaranteed protection from the death penalty.
But Morganelli said last week that it was too early to talk about making deals.
Cohen, who said he has been contacted by two other families who fear relatives may have been killed by Cullen, used his news conference to accuse Easton Hospital's current and former owners of trying to cover up the circumstances that led to Schramm's death.
Schramm's wife, Lorraine, 82, is suing Easton Hospital over her husband's death, and Cohen said he plans to file a motion asking the court to sanction the hospital for withholding its investigation.
Cohen said he plans to file a new lawsuit against the current ownership of the hospital -- Community Health Systems of Lexington, Ky. -- and may ask a judge to freeze the assets of the Two Rivers Health and Wellness Foundation, the successor to the nonprofit corporation that sold the hospital in October 2001.
Easton Hospital spokeswoman Sue Ross said current ownership would not comment on Cohen's criticism.
Two Rivers Hospital Corp. issued a statement confirming its liability for malpractice lawsuits, including the Schramms', that relate to conduct that took place before its sale of the hospital.
"We have fully cooperated with both the coroner's investigation and the more recent inquiry by the state police into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Schramm," the statement read. "In light of the recent charges brought against Mr. Cullen, we are taking a second look at our medical records."
The statement, attributed to Paul Brunswick, president of Two Rivers Hospital Corp., said the corporation will answer Cohen's criticism in court.
Schramm's family and attorneys said they are left with puzzling questions, such as who at the hospital took the unusual step of ordering a test of Schramm's blood for digoxin just a day before he died.
Another question is why, despite the attorneys interviewing several nurses and scanning medical records, Cullen's name has never surfaced before.
"Easton Hospital could have systematically gone through their employees and made a fairly good determination of who was involved here," Cohen said.
Toth, who did most of the talking for her mother -- a slight woman who needed help entering and leaving the news conference -- said she only wishes she could remember the face of the man who rolled her father's bed away for testing on Dec. 28.
"He had a syringe in his hand, and I said: "What was that for?' And he said that was in case my father's heart stopped. I didn't think anything at the time. I remembered it, but I didn't think anything was wrong at the time," Toth said.
Months after her father died and bothered by the episode, she mentioned the man to Northampton County Coroner Zachary Lysek, who was investigating the death.
Toth said she thinks that man was probably Cullen.
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