Despite killing 47 babies while a pediatric nurse, Genene Jones was released with a letter of recommendation and her professional reputation still intact.
Genene Jones, a sixty-seven-year-old inmate in the Lane Murray Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, is set to be released in 2018. However, prosecutors are set on stopping that from happening and have reopened investigations against her to prevent her release, and with good reason.
In the 1980s, Genene Jones, nicknamed the “Angel of Death,” is believed to have murdered around 60 children while working as a pediatric licensed vocational nurse.
From April 1981 to June 1982, Jones worked as a licensed vocational nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit at Bexar County Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. In this short span of time, 47 babies died in the ICU, 34 of them directly under Jones’ care. This epidemic of mysterious deaths attracted attention, leading her colleagues to call her shift “the Death Shift.” Children were over ten times as likely to die during her 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift than at any other time in the ICU.
While these mysterious deaths raised suspicion around the hospital, there was no concrete proof of any wrongdoing. The hospital, fearing bad press, neglected to pursue any further inquiry into the rash of infant deaths.
Instead, while undergoing a name change and subsequent publicity overhaul, the hospital simply chose to discharge all LVNs in the unit, rather than singling Jones out. Under the guise of upgrading the unit to an all RN staff, Jones was let go with stellar recommendation letters and her professional reputation still intact.
On the strength of her references, she was hired to work at a pediatric clinic in Kerrville, Texas. The mysterious deaths followed her to the Kerrville clinic, where multiple children suddenly fell ill after receiving what were supposed to be routine injections.
One day in 1982, Chelsea McClennan, just over a year old, arrived at the local clinic for routine immunization shots. Instead of administering the vaccine, Genene Jones injected her three times with Succinylcholine, a muscle relaxant that stopped her heart.
This death launched a criminal investigation, and, with multiple damning testimonies regarding the string of mysteriously dead patients under Jones’ care, she was convicted and sentenced to 99 years in prison for McClennan’s murder.
A short time later, charges for injuring a child were also brought against her for the case of Rolando Santos, to whom she administered large doses of Heparin, a blood-thinner that caused massive bleeding. She was found guilty and sentenced to serve 60 more years along with her 99-year murder sentence.
Despite the lengthy sentences, Jones is scheduled to be released in 2018, due to Texas’ Mandatory Release Law, which allows inmates to put their “good behavior” towards time served to complete their sentences sooner.
Texas prosecutors, however, are determined not to let her walk free. On May 25, 2017, she was indicted for the murder of Joshua Sawyer. Just under a year old, he had arrived in Jones’ ICU on December 8, 1981, suffering from a coma and seizures due to smoke inhalation after a fire ravaged his family’s home.
Although he was in a coma, his brain activity showed promising signs. Within a few days, his seizures stopped and he appeared to be improving. That changed, however, when he came under Jones’ care that evening. Much to his doctors’ surprise, Sawyer’s condition suddenly worsened.
He suffered multiple cardiac arrests before his heart stopped completely. Lab reports showed more than double the prescribed dose of Dilantin, an anticonvulsant used to treat his seizures, in his system.
The following month Genene Jones was charged again, this time with the murder of Rosemary Vega, a two-year-old child with a congenital heart defect who died of cardiac arrest shortly after Jones administered an intravenous shot.
Once she is released from the Lane Murray Unit, instead of walking free, she will be transferred to jail to await her trial for these new charges. If Jones is convicted for the murder of another infant, even mandatory release laws won’t be able to help her, and it is unlikely she will see the outside of a prison cell again.