Genene Jones has been locked up since she was found guilty of murdering 15-month-old Chelsea McClellan in 1984 and handed a 99-year jail sentence. She was a nurse when she killed Chelsea during a visit to the little girl’s doctor. Years later, it turns out that Jones may be much more evil than people knew 34 years ago.
Chelsea’s murder happened at the pediatrics clinic of Dr. Kathleen Holland in Kerrville, a small city set on the Guadalupe River in the scenic Texas Hill Country. Holland had opened her clinic in Kerrville in 1982 and she needed a nurse to help her in her practice. She already knew Jones a little as they’d worked together at Bexar County Hospital in San Antonio.
Despite veiled warnings of possible misconduct towards children at Bexar, Holland decided to employ Jones as her nurse. Having worked with Jones herself, she simply didn’t believe the murmurings she’d heard. Plus the hospital administration had been happy to give Jones a good reference.
Chelsea McClellan was born in June 1981, the year before Holland opened her Kerrville clinic. She was born four weeks premature and had recurring respiratory problems. She was treated for these problems, and doctors did not believe that she was in any serious danger.
When Holland first opened her clinic, Chelsea was her second patient. The doctor and Chelsea’s mother went into the back office to talk and Nurse Jones took charge of the child in the treatment room. Within a few minutes, Jones called Holland urgently – Chelsea wasn’t breathing. Jones and Holland immediately started emergency treatment to revive her.
An ambulance was called and arrived quickly, getting the child to emergency within a couple of minutes. Chelsea stayed in hospital for several days, making a complete recovery. Believing that Holland, with the help of Jones, had saved Chelsea’s life, the McClellans were now immensely grateful. They went out of their way to recommend the clinic to the folks of Kerrville.
But in September Chelsea made a return visit to the clinic with her mother. Holland decided it was time for the child to have her routine inoculations. Jones prepared two shots and administered them. Almost immediately, Chelsea went into seizure. This time, Chelsea died in an ambulance on her way to the Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio.
And the extraordinary background to Chelsea’s death was the horrifying number of unexpected medical emergencies that children visiting Holland’s clinic had experienced. In a few short months no fewer than seven children had been the victim of seizures with no known cause from which they’d all recovered, unlike Chelsea. This was far outside the normal range of incidents that would be expected at this small pediatric clinic.
After Chelsea’s death, a distraught Holland now began to have her suspicions about what was going on at her clinic. A doctor at Sid Peterson now asked Holland if a potent muscle relaxant drug called succinylcholine was used at the Kerrville unit. Although Holland did have a stock of the drug at her clinic, she’d never had occasion to administer it.
After some investigation, in late September 1982 Holland found that one of the vials of succinylcholine in her stock had two pinpricks in the lid. She handed this bottle to medical investigators. They discovered that one of the bottles had been filled with saline instead of the drug it was supposed to contain.
In October 1982, the authorities convened a grand jury in Kerr County to examine evidence about the seven children who’d had seizures when visiting Holland’s clinic and the one – Chelsea McClellan – ¬ who had died. Chelsea’s body was now exhumed and the traces of succinylcholine in her system indicated that it was an overdose of this drug that had killed her.
And now the net was really beginning to tighten around Jones. A separate grand jury, this time sitting in San Antonio, investigated the deaths of no fewer than 47 children who had died in unexplained circumstances at Bexar County Hospital. Every death had happened while Jones was working at Bexar. Medical records showed that a child was a staggering 10 percent more likely to die while Jones ran a ward.
There was now enough evidence to charge Jones with the murder of Chelsea McClellan. At her trial in early 1984, Jones was found guilty of murder and she was sentenced to 99 years behind bars. Later in 1984, Jones was also tried and found guilty of administering a drug overdose to four-week old Rolando Santos at Bexar County Hospital. The child survived and Jones was sentenced to 60 years for that crime, to run concurrently with her 99-year sentence.
Jones was not charged in connection with any of the other child deaths at Bexar. And that might have been the end of Jones’ story, with the murderer living out the rest of her years in prison. But then an old Texas law made the prospect of her release a strong possibility. The Mandatory Release law was framed to avoid prison overcrowding.
This law says that prisoners must be released if the years they’re credited with for good behavior plus the years they’ve served equal their total sentence. The application of that law would have meant that Jones could have been freed by May 2018.
But prosecutors were appalled by the idea that Jones might be released. Quoted by People in May 2017, San Antonio District Attorney Nico LaHood said, “She is pure evil and justice warrants that she be held accountable for the crimes she committed. Our office will attempt to account for every child whose life was stolen by the actions of Jones. Our only focus is justice.”
And the D.A.’s office was saying that Jones might have been responsible for the deaths of up to 60 children in the five-year period from 1977 to 1982. Jones was now charged with the murder of Joshua Sawyer, just 11 months old when he died. Joshua died in the Bexar County Hospital in 1981 from an overdose of Dilantin, an anti-seizure drug.
To add to Jones’ legal woes, in April 2018 it was reported that she’d been landed with another four child murder changes dating back to her time as a nurse, on top of the Joshua Sawyer killing. And Bexar County Assistant District Attorney Jason Goss had a bombshell for the court at a pre-trial hearing.
Goss told the court that Jones, who had by now more than earned her nickname “Angel of Death,” had confessed to other murders in a conversation with a parole officer. Texas Monthly reported in April 2018 that Goss told the court that Jones had confessed to the probation officer in 1998, “I really did kill those babies.”
Goss also recounted that a fellow prisoner had reported that Jones had said to her, “I didn’t kill those babies. The voices in my head did.” We’ll have to wait until the outcome of Jones’ trial for these alleged five child murders to be certain of what the future holds for her. But if she’s found guilty, we can be sure she’ll spent the rest of her days safely locked up.