A 31-year-old contract nurse accused of attacking and seriously burning a coworker in a break room at Hackensack University Medical Center has been found dead in Camden County.

Nicholas Pagano, of West Deptford, drove off after the assault around 5 a.m. Monday. Police said he set a 54-year-old woman on fire and hit her with a wrench.

Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella said Monday evening that he was believed to be operating a 1998 white Jeep Grand Cherokee with black roof racks and New Jersey license plate number S57 NJH.

His body was later recovered with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a wooded area of Waterford Township, according to the prosecutor's office.

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NBC New York reported that Pagano used a gun taken from a relative's house, citing unnamed law enforcement sources.

Nicholas Pagano (BCPO)
Nicholas Pagano (BCPO)

The female victim on Monday suffered third-degree burns over her upper body, face and hands, as well as a cut to her head that required stitches, according to Musella.

She was treated in the emergency room at HUMC before being taken to another medical facility for additional care, where she remained in stable condition on Tuesday.

Pagano had been working in Hackensack since mid-November after being vetted by a contracting agency, including state and county background checks, drug screening and a license review.

Hackensack University Medical Center
Hackensack University Medical Center (Hackensack Meridian Health)

The hospital previously issued this statement on Monday:

"Violence will not be tolerated in our network. Our doctors, nurses and teams are true heroes and deserve our respect. The safety of our patients and our team members is Hackensack Meridian Health’s highest priority."

Musella thanked the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, Hackensack Police Department, West Deptford Police Department, Hammonton Police Department, Waterford Township Police Department, Winslow Township Police
Department, State Park Police, Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, and Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office for assistance in the nearly statewide investigation.

An independent nurse contractor is a health care professional who works on a contract basis, rather than being employed full time at one place and typically travels to different locations to support staff during shortages.

The demand for such workers has spiked due to the continued toll of the COVID pandemic.

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