Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

ANGELS OF DEATH: THE FEMALE NURSES

The Malignant Hero

Every parent's worst nightmare is entrusting his or her child into the care of a person who intends it harm.  Few people would ever suspect that someone who enters the healing profession and swears on the nurse's oath would rather see children die than be healthy.  It took a lengthy investigation, breaking through walls of professional denial, and the near-destruction of a doctor's career before the truth about this malicious caregiver was discovered.

In 1982, Dr. Kathleen Holland opened a pediatrics clinic in Kerrville, Texas.  Needing help, she hired a licensed vocational nurse named Genene Ann Jones, who had recently resigned from the Bexar County Medical Center Hospital.  Many parents were happy to have this clinic available, but during a period of two months that first summer, seven different children succumbed to seizures while in Holland's office.  She transferred them by ambulance for treatment at Sid Peterson Hospital, never thinking the seizures were suspicious.  However, from the sheer numbers of children afflicted, the hospital staff thought something odd must be going on. 

They questioned Holland and she assured everyone that she was at a total loss as to why these children were suffering at her clinic.  At least they'd all recovered.  But then one of them, 15-month-old Chelsea McClellan, died while en route from the clinic to the hospital.  Dr. Holland was devastated, as were Chelsea's parents.  The child had not even been very ill.

Genene Jones 1968
Genene Jones 1968

Soon afterward, Genene Jones assured Dr. Holland that she had found a bottle of succinylcholine, a powerful muscle relaxant, that had been reported missing three weeks earlier.  Holland saw that the cap was missing and the rubber top punctured with needle marks, so she dismissed Jones from her employ.  She was later to learn that the near-full bottle had been filled with saline.  In other words, someone had been using this dangerous drug, which paralyzed people into a sort of hell on earth: they lay inert but aware and unable to get anyone's attention.

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 years---the time when Genene Jones 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.  Jones was questioned by both grand juries, and, along with Holland, was named by Chelsea's parents in a wrongful death suit.

The grand jury indicted Jones on two counts of murder, and several charges of injury to six other children.  The various facilities where she had worked were appalled.

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