In September 1982, Petti McClellan arrived at a pediatric clinic in Kerrville , near San Antonio, Texas with her 3-year-old son Cameron who had the flu and her 15-month-old daughter Chelsea McClellan. When pediatric nurse Genene Jones offered to update Chelsea’s vaccination shots there was no reason to be alarmed. Jones injected Chelsea twice while she was in her mother’s arms all the while smiling and chatting to Petti. Chelsea immediately began struggling to breathe and Genene Jones leapt into action, performing CPR and shouting to call the doctor.
Chelsea was stabilised and Jones went in the ambulance with her where she gave the young child a third injection in full view of the two ambulance technicians who could not comprehend the reason for her actions. It was this final injection that killed Chelsea McClellan and she died in the ambulance before reaching the hospital in San Antonio.
When an autopsy could not determine the cause of death, Chelsea’s body was exhumed and tests came back positive for succinylcholine chloride, a muscle relaxant generally used in anesthesia causing short-term paralysis. It is a drug that had no place in a healthy child’s body and it was this finding that invoked charges against Genene Jones.
Unanimously found guilty of murder at her trial in February 1984, Jones was sentenced to 99 years in prison. Just months after this trial ended she once again faced charges of injuring a child in her care. She stood trial a second time for injecting 4-week-old Rolando Santos, who was suffering from pneumonia, with blood-thinning agent Heparin also in 1982. Rolando survived and Jones was convicted of injury to a child receiving a further 60-year sentence.
In San Antonio on 12 May 2017, District Attorney Nico LaHood held a press conference where talking about Genene Jones he told reporters “She’s been suspected in dozens of infant deaths and she’s only been held accountable in one,” reports the New York Post.
A law passed in 1977 to try and address overcrowding in prisons would have allowed Genene Jones to be released in March 2018 after serving just 35 years of her 99-year sentence. Under the threat of this woman being released from prison, authorities have reopened the numerous cases of child deaths under unexplained circumstances at the hospitals and clinics where Genene Jones worked in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Links between her shift patterns and the times at which these children suddenly became seriously ill are now being found and investigated further. Police believe that Genene Jones could be responsible for the deaths of up to 60 children across a number of hospitals in Texas. Children that were targeted and purposefully injured by Jones, in a catalogue of acts that went undetected for many years.
This week she has been charged with a further murder, that of 11-month-old Joshua Sawyer who was given an overdose of an anti-seizure drug in 1981. An overdose police believe was purposefully given to him by Genene Jones, just as she did with Chelsea McClellan and Rolando Santos. As Texas did not have the death penalty in place in 1981, Jones will not receive a death sentence if she is found guilty of these new charges, she would, however, spend the rest of her life in prison.
Labelled an ‘Angel of Death’, Genene Jones is a woman many want to keep behind bars. It is a label that has been applied to numerous healthcare serial killers including Daniela Poggiali, an Italian nurse who murdered elderly patients in her care before taking ‘selfies’ with their bodies, and Charles Cullen, a nurse in New Jersey who is believed to have killed over 40 of his patients in a murderous plan spanning 16 years across nine different medical institutions.
When an individual within the healthcare service decides to kill, their knowledge, training, and access to drugs and vulnerable patients puts them in a prime position to carry out their sinister acts. Nurses who attack the most vulnerable and helpless of all patients, children, are nurses with a different level of darkness driving them to kill.
“She is pure evil and justice warrants that she be held accountable for the crimes she committed.”
Genene Jones was a pediatric nurse working at the Bexar County Hospital in Texas when suspicions were first raised that the high number of child deaths on the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit may have been caused by foul play. While authorities at the hospital were concerned enough to ask Genene Jones to leave, they did not pursue any further investigation, leaving this nurse free to simply start working with children again at another hospital.
She moved to the private practice pediatric clinic in Kerrville, Texas. When children began to suffer and die there under unexplained circumstances, again the eyes of suspicion fell onto Genene Jones. At the time that Chelsea McClellan died, Dr. Kathleen Holland discovered a bottle of succinylcholine locked in a medication store that only herself and Jones had access to which had small puncture marks in the top, suggesting a syringe had been used to remove some of its contents. Combined with the levels of succinylcholine found in Chelsea McClellan’s blood, a guilty verdict was inevitable for Genene Jones.
It is understood that administrators at Bexar County Hospital accidentally destroyed thousands of documents and records in 1984, making further changes against Jones almost impossible to bring after her original convictions.The fear is that Genene Jones had killed before, most likely across different hospitals since she started practicing as a nurse in 1977 and the true number of children she could have killed may never be known for sure.
Nurses who harm or kill children in their care often do so in order to gain attention for themselves. They cause a medical emergency so they can run to the child’s aid and be rewarded with the admiration of their colleagues and the child’s family for saving the child’s life. However, they can take this behaviour too far. British nurse Beverley Allitt was convicted of killing four children and attempting to murder three others in 1991 at the children’s ward in Grantham and Kesteven Hospital in Lincolnshire.
She received 13 life sentences for her crimes and had harmed a great many children before suspicions fell on her and she was stopped. It was her shift patterns matching to the times the children fell desperately ill which sealed her fate. Munchausen by proxy syndrome has been raised as a possible reason for Allitt’s behaviour where making someone else very sick, usually a child in their care, means they can enjoy the attention that this brings.
When questioned on her actions Genene Jones suggested she was making the children in her care even more sick to highlight how much the area was in need of a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. A feeble explanation which is impossible to reconcile with a trained pediatric nurse whose job is to care for and protect her young patients. With the potential release of Genene Jones fast approaching, District Attorney Nico LaHood has said, “We will do our best to ensure that Genene Jones takes her very last breath behind bars.”