Infant killer Genene Jones due prison release in March 2018
But Bexar County Grand Jury indicts her on new murder charges
When Genene Jones turns 67 on Thursday, July 13, 2017, it will be 35 years since she visited the Kerrville, Texas Garden of Memories Cemetery grave site of the baby girl she killed.
Chelsea McClellan only lived 15 months. In 1982, she had been buried just a week when her grieving mother, Petti McClellan strived to drive the few miles northeast of the town to lay flowers on her baby’s grave.
As she approached the Babyland portion of the memorial park, she noticed a woman hovering over the bronze “Our Little Angel” marker. It was Jones, the nurse from the pediatrician’s office who treated Chelsea for respiratory problems. She was rocking back and forth, blubbering, “Chelsea. Chelsea. Chelsea…”
“What are you doing here?” McClellan softly asked from a distance. Jones appeared not to hear. Suddenly, the nurse turned and looked at the mother with a hallow stare. She stood up, trancelike, and walked back to her car. As Jones drove out of the cemetery, the confused mother noticed something odd. Jones had left a small spray of flowers, but had taken a pretty pink bow from her daughter’s grave.
Jones’ boss, Dr. Kathleen Holland, had recently opened a pediatrics clinic in Kerrville. The doctor had hired the nurse who recently discontinued her employment at the Bexar County Hospital in San Antonio. Dr. Holland had briefly worked with Jones at that hospital and knew there was an active investigation in progress regarding the nurse.
Her co-workers said Jones had an obsession with being needed. Her reputation of being a bully to other nurses didn’t make things better. She skipped required classes on the proper handling of drugs. Records showed that during her first year at the hospital, she made eight separate nursing errors, some while dispensing medication. Jones developed an overwhelming dependency on sick children, so she would refuse specific orders because she wanted to do what was “best” for the child.
“…34 babies died while Jones was on duty, boosting the hospital’s infant death rate by 178 percent.”
There were more than enough grounds for dismissal, including coming in one night drunk. But head nurse Pat Belko, liked and protected her. Jones began to feel invincible. She became more aggressive arrogant, and foul-mouthed. She bragged about all of her sexual conquests. Nurses began transferring to other departments just to get away from her. She would make disturbing predictions about which baby was going to die next. A review by The New England Journal of Medicine in 1985 concluded that 34 babies died while Jones was on duty, boosting the hospital’s infant death rate by 178 percent.
Dr. Holland hired Jones for her new Kerrville clinic anyway.
What occurred next was the beginning of the end to infant serial killings some called the “Angel of Death murders.” These murders earned its place at the top of list of the most notorious horro stories and locations such as the Donkey Lady, the Headless Statue, the Butcher of Elmendorf, Woman Hollering Creek, and the Haunted Room 636 of the Gunter Hotel.
The clinic’s first patient was Chelsea. On the second day of operation, with carpenter’s still working in the office, Petti McClellan brought her baby in to check on her lungs. Born premature, she had been in the hospital several times. McClellan was relieved the new clinic was nearby, rather than driving the hour into San Antonio.
Later testimony revealed that Nurse Jones took Chelsea into another room so that Dr. Holland could visit with Mrs. McClellan. Within moments, the baby had to be rushed to the Sid Peterson Hospital emergency room because she stopped breathing. In Petti and Reid McClellan’s eyes, Genene Jones was a hero.
Nine months later, Chelsea came back for a routine check-up. Dr. Holland ordered two standard inoculations. When Jones injected the first needle, the baby’s breathing changed and she went into a seizure. McClellan asked her to stop. Jones ignored her and proceeded with a second injection. Chelsea’s breathing stopped and she went limp.
“And they said there wouldn’t be any excitement when we came to Kerrville.”
Dr. Holland had the carpenters call for an ambulance to take the baby to the hospital. When they arrived at the emergency room, Jones carried Chelsea in her arms into the building. Someone heard her say, “And they said there wouldn’t be any excitement when we came to Kerrville.”
The Doctor arranged for Chelsea to be transported to a San Antonio hospital where neurological tests could be performed. In the ambulance, Chelsea stopped breathing again and her heart stopped. Jones administered several injections while Dr. Holland performed a heart massage. Chelsea died.
Before they left the hospital, Dr. Holland asked for an autopsy. She thought it odd that Chelsea had only came into her clinic for a routine exam. This shouldn’t have happened. Later that day at the clinic, a little boy under Jones care suddenly went into seizures and had to be resuscitated. The child stabilized and his parents later commented that Genene had appeared to be quite excited over the incident, even happy. Tests afterward indicated there was no reason for such an unexpected occurrence. Even the nurses and staff of Sid Peterson Hospital became suspicious.
Reid and Petti McClelland placed an ad in the Kerrville Daily Times a few days after the funeral thanking the community, Dr. Holland and Nurse Jones for their outpouring of love and support.
By October 12, 1982 a Kerr County grand jury learned that besides the death of Chelsea, eight more children from Holland’s clinic had also suddenly developed emergency respiratory problems that required trips to the emergency room. Chelsea’s boy was exhumed. Tests showed she died from an overdose of Succinylcholine. The Texas Rangers were called in.
In February 1983, Bexar County grand jury in San Antonio looked into 47 suspicious deaths of children at the hospital Gene Jones had previously worked at. Investigations and data all pointed to Nurse Jones.
Dr. Holland was also questioned. The McClellans named her and Jones in a wrongful death suit. Holland had turned against Jones, offering the district attorney damaging information against her former nurse, specifically in her discovery of bottles of succinylcholine.
Strangely, at the heat turned up on her, the 32-year-old Jones married a 19-year-old boy and was caught trying to flee with him.
Today, Jones lives on incarcerated at the Dr. Lane Murray Unit just north of Gatesville, Texas. It’s unknown if anyone among her peers from Bexar County will be celebrating her birthday. The child murderers there are Alicia Gina Carranza, 32; Tomeka Nicole Cantu, 31; and Elyse Marsyl Colon, 30. Other murderers from the San Antonio area include Beatriz Perez, 59; Vanessa Cameron, 36; Valerie R. Andrews, 45; Devon Arlene Vega, 36; Stephanie Mitchell Smith, 39; Eloisa Valedespino, 47; Susan Marie Sutton, 39; Shana M. Hays, 57; Minerva Alcorta, 51; and Mardie E. Swartz, 44.
Her unit is on 1,283 acres shared with others operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. At the nearby Mountain View Unit, Yolanda Saldívar, another former nurse from San Antonio spends her life in prison. Saldívar was the killer of the famous singer Selena Quintanilla, on March 31, 1995.
Jones has been looking forward to her 67th birthday knowing that it would be her last spent in prison. She’s scheduled for automatic parole on March 1, 2018 under a 1977 law meant to alleviate overcrowding in prisons.
But San Antonio District Attorney Nico LaHood has other plans. His team re-opened the case files resulting in a Bexar County murder indictment against Jones for the September 1981 death of 2-year-old Rosemary Vega in June. In May, that same grand jury indicated Jones for the death of 11-month-old Joshua Sawyer in December 1981. Bail was set at $1 million for each charge.
“She is pure evil and justice warrants that she be held accountable for the crimes she committed,” LaHood stated last month. “Our Office will attempt to account for every child whose life was stolen by the actions of Jones. Our only focus is justice.”
Her 67th birthday is not panning out as she had planned. Prosecutors gifted her with the knowledge she will be extradited back to Bexar County prior to her scheduled March 2018 release. She’ll remain incarcerated pending a trial for these new charges.