A Texas nurse jailed for the early 1980s killings of a baby girl has been accused in another child's death, as officials believe she may behind the deaths of as many as 60 children who died around that time.
Genene Jones, 66, is serving concurrent 99-year and 60-year sentences for the deaths of 15-month-old Chelsea McClellan, who was given a fatal injection of a muscle relaxant, and the sickening of 4-week-old Rolando Santos, who nearly died after being given a dangerous dose of the blood thinner Heparin, authorities said.
Jones was set to go free next March under a mandatory release law that gave her credit for about two days of “good time” for every day she was in prison.
But on Thursday, the Bexar County district attorney announced that Jones had been charged in the death of 11-month-old Joshua Sawyer, who died of a fatal overdose of an anti-seizure drug, Dilantin.
Jones was working as a nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit in what was formerly known as the Bexar County Hospital, where little Joshua died on December 12, 1981.
Joshua had entered the ICU in a coma and experiencing seizures after suffering severe smoke inhalation during an explosion and fire at his family’s home, but the child’s condition eventually improved.
By his fourth day in the ICU, Joshua’s seizures had stopped and he was breathing without a respirator, “The Death Shift: Nurse Genene Jones and the Texas Baby Murders” author Peter Elkind wrote for ProPublica.
But four hours after Jones had taken over Joshua’s care, his heart began beating too rapidly. The next day, he was dead.
During Jones’s time as a nurse at Bexar County Hospital, 42 children died in the eight-bed pediatric ICU from April 1981 and June 1982, according to Elkind.
An investigation by The Center for Disease Control and Prevention would later find that during the shift Jones worked in this period, a child was 25.5 times as likely to suffer a medical emergency and 10.7 times as likely to die, Elkind reported.
Jones and all other LVNs at Bexar County Hospital were let go in March 1982, and five months later she began working at a pediatric clinic in Kerrville.
Over a period of 31 days starting in late August, six children who arrived at the clinic with routine problems were rushed to a nearby hospital after they suddenly stopped breathing, including little Chelsea McClellan, who died on September 17, Elkind wrote.
The 15-month-old girl went into respiratory arrest after Jones gave her what were supposed to be routine injections, but later revealed to be succinylcholine, a muscle relaxant.
Jones was ultimately convicted of a single charge of murder for Chelsea’s death.
The newest charge against Jones comes after District Attorney Nico LaHood assembled a task force in 2015 to investigate Jones, who he said is suspected of killing up to 60 infants.
“As people are well aware, I believe children are a gift from the Lord,” LaHood said in a statement. “Genene Jones did not see children in this regard.”
LaHood told reporters that investigators believe Jones may have killed some or all of the children who died of unexplained seizures and other complications because they died under unusual circumstances during or shortly after her shifts.
“She is pure evil and justice warrants that she be held accountable for the crimes she committed,” LaHood said. “Our Office will attempt to account for every child whose life was stolen by the actions of Jones. Our only focus is justice.”
LaHood said the new murder charge is based on fresh evidence that came to light and a review of old evidence, WNCN-TV reported.
“She’s been suspected in dozens of infant deaths and she’s only been held accountable in one,” he said, noting that the deaths of some children are being re-examined and additional charges could be coming.
Jones was “emotional” when she was served with an arrest warrant Thursday, LaHood said.
Jones is currently incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Lane Murray Unit in Gatesville. Because of the new charge, she will be transferred to the Bexar County Jail and held on a $1 million bond while the case is prosecuted.
If she is able to make bond, Jones is required to remain under house arrest with GPS monitoring, have no contact with children under 18 and not go near any medical facility unless it is for her own treatment.
Jones has always maintained her innocence, telling Elkind three weeks before her indictment in 1983: “I’m sick and tired of being crucified alive and having people think I’m a baby killer. I haven’t killed a damn soul.”
A prison spokesman told ProPublica that Jones has instructed officials to decline interview requests.
If convicted of murder, Jones could face up to 99 years in prison.
“We will do our best to ensure that Genene Jones takes her very last breath behind bars,” LaHood said.