Ex-Texas nurse pleads guilty in 1981 death of 11-month-old

Ex-Texas nurse pleads guilty in 1981 death of 11-month-old

A former Texas nurse suspected in the killing of dozens of children has pleaded guilty in the 1981 death of an 11-month-old

January 16, 2020, 7:59 PM

3 min read

SAN ANTONIO -- A former Texas nurse suspected in the killing of dozens of children pleaded guilty Thursday in the 1981 death of an 11-month-old boy, receiving a life sentence that a prosecutor said should ensure she dies in prison.

Genene Jones, 69, was imprisoned in 1984 for killing one child and giving an overdose to another.

She had been set for release in 2018 under a mandatory release law that was in place when she was convicted. But prosecutors in 2017, citing new evidence, filed five new murder charges against her related to the deaths of children in the early 1980s.

“With this plea, the odds are she will take her last breath in prison,” prosecutor Catherine Babbitt said after the hearing in San Antonio.

Jones, who had been set for trial in February, was sentenced Thursday in the death of Joshua Sawyer, who investigators say overdosed on an anti-seizure drug. The other four cases were dismissed, prosecutors said.

Jones will be eligible for parole in 18 years, when she's about 87, Babbitt said.

Several family members gave victim impact statements at the hearing, including Joshua's mother, Connie Weeks.

“I hope for you to live a long and miserable life behind bars. Goodbye,” Weeks said to Jones.

Children died of unexplained seizures and other complications when Jones worked at a San Antonio hospital and clinic in Kerrville, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) northwest of San Antonio.

She was sentenced in 1984 to 99 years in prison in the killing of 15-month-old Chelsea McClellan. Later that year, she was sentenced to 60 years in prison in the sickening of 4-week-old Rolando Santos, who recovered. Chelsea was given a fatal injection of a muscle relaxant and Rolando received a large injection of a blood thinner.

In 2017, she was charged in Joshua's death; the 1981 killing of 2-year-old Rosemary Vega; the 1981 killing of 8-month-old Richard “Ricky” Nelson; the 1982 killing of 4-month-old Patrick Zavala; and the 1981 killing of 3-month-old Paul Villarreal.

“We trust our nurses — our nurses are specifically trained to provide comfort and medical care for their patients," Babbitt said after the hearing. “And these patients were not only children, but they were often critically ill children. And for her to decide on her watch who lived and who died is nothing short of evil.”

Prosecutors at Jones' 1984 murder trial said she injected children with drugs at the Kerrville clinic to demonstrate the need for a pediatric intensive care unit at a nearby hospital. Other prosecutors theorized that her tactic was to take swift medical action and save some of her victims so she could appear to be a sort of miracle worker.

In 2017, then-Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood said prosecutors "don't really know" her motivation.

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