Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Women Who Kill: Part One

The Caretaker

In 1982, Dr. Kathleen Holland opened a pediatrics clinic in Kerville, Texas. She hired a licensed vocational nurse named Genene Ann Jones, who had recently resigned from the Bexar County Medical Center Hospital. Then over the next two months, seven children had seizures. The staff at the hospital where she transported them was suspicious. Holland had no idea what to say, and then one of the children died.

Book cover: Savage Spawn
1968 yearbook photo
of Genene Jones

However, a bottle of succinylcholine, a powerful muscle relaxant, had turned up missing, and then suddenly Genene Jones located it. Holland dismissed Jones, and was later to learn that the bottle had been filled with saline. In other words, someone had been using this dangerous drug.

It wasn't the first time Jones had been in trouble.

In February 1983, a grand jury was convened to look into 47 suspicious deaths of children at Bexar County Medical Center Hospital that had occurred over a period of four yearsthe time when she had been a nurse there. A second grand jury organized hearings on the children from Holland's clinic. The body of Chelsea McClellan was exhumed and her tissues tested; her death appeared to have been caused by an injection of the muscle relaxant.

The grand jury indicted Jones on two counts of murder, and several charges of injury to six other children. Anyone who knew Jones was not altogether surprised. She could be inordinately aggressive, had betrayed friends, and often resorted to lies to manipulate othersa classic psychopath. While she'd wanted children all her life, the two she had she'd left in the care of her adoptive mother.

The first child she picked up in her job at Bexar County Medical had a fatal intestinal condition, and when he died shortly thereafter, she went berserk. She brought a stool into the cubicle where the body lay and sat staring at it.

By 1981, Jones demanded to be put in charge of the sickest patients. That placed her close to those that died most often. She loved the excitement of an emergency, and even seemed to enjoy the grief she experienced when a child didn't make it. She always wanted to take the corpse to the morgue.

It became clear to everyone that children were dying in this unit from problems that shouldn't have been fatal. The need for resuscitation suddenly seemed constantbut only when Jones was around. Those in the most critical condition were all under her care. One child had a seizure three days in a row, but only on her shift. "They're going to start thinking I'm the Death Nurse," Jones quipped one day.

Then a baby named Jose Antonio Flores, six months old, went into cardiac arrest while in Jones's care. He was revived, but went into arrest again the next day during her shift and died from bleeding. Tests on the corpse indicated an overdose of a drug called Heparin, an anticoagulant. No one had ordered it.

Then Rolando Santos, being treated for pneumonia, was having seizures, cardiac arrest, and extensive unexplained bleeding. All of his troubles developed or intensified on Jones's shift. Finally one doctor stepped forward and told the hospital staff that she was killing children. They needed an investigation. Yet the nurses protected her. Since the hospital did not want bad publicity, they accepted whatever the head nurse said.

Another child was sent to the pediatrics unit to recover from open-heart surgery. At first, he progressed well, but on Jones's shift, he became lethargic. Then his condition deteriorated and he soon died. Jones grabbed a syringe and squirted fluid over the child in the sign of a cross, then repeated it on herself.

Finally, a committee was formed to look into the problem. They decided to replace the LVNs with RNs on the unit, and Jones promptly resigned. To their mind, that took care of the problem.

All it did was let her know she could get away with medical abuse, and she moved on to the Kerrville clinic. Despite the risk of exposure in such a small place to inject children to the point of seizure, she didn't stop.

Although Dr. Holland was warned in veiled tones not to hire Genene Jones, she viewed Jones as a victim of the male-dominated patriarchy. She had no idea that by teaming up with this woman, she was about to kill her own career, her marriage, and one of her young charges.

At trial, prosecutors presented Jones as having a hero complex: She needed to take the children to the edge of death and then bring them back so that she could be acclaimed their savior. One of her former colleagues reported that she wanted to get more sick children into the intensive care unit. "They're out there," she supposedly said. "All you have to do is find them."

Yet her actions may actually have been inspired by a more mundane motive: She liked the excitement and the attention it brought her. The children couldn't tell on her; they were at her mercy. So she was free to recreate emergencies over and over.

In a statistical report presented at the second trial, an investigator stated that children were 25% more likely to have a cardiac arrest when Jones was in charge, and 10% more likely to die.

On February 15, 1982, Jones was convicted of murder. Later that year, she was found guilty of injuring another child by injection. The two sentences totaled 159 years, but she's eligible for parole after 20.

Clearly, Jones made the deliberate effort to kill, but not all female killers are as aggressive. Yet denial can still play a part in the tragedies they cause, as was the case with the next woman, who became quite famous for her unintentional crimes.

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