Crime Former nurse blamed ‘voices in her head’ for Texas deaths, lawyer says

16:26  19 april  2018
16:26  19 april  2018 Source:   mysanantonio.com

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Convicted child killer Genene Jones confessed at least three times to giving overdoses to babies in her care, at one point admitting “I didn’t kill the babies, the voices in my head did,” an attorney testified Wednesday at a hearing that turned into a preview of the prosecution’s case.

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Jones, 67, who worked at hospitals in San Antonio and for a Kerrville pediatrician in the 1980s, was convicted of killing Chelsea McClellan, 15 months. The baby died in 1982 from an overdose of muscle relaxers given to her by the nurse. A Williamson County jury sentenced Jone to 99 years in prison.

She also was convicted in Bexar County of injury to a child/serious bodily injury and sentenced to 60 years in prison for giving an overdose to Rolando Santos in 1982. The 4-week-old infant survived.

Jones served both sentences at the same time and was due to be paroled last month.

But since May, Jones was indicted on charges of murdering five other Bexar County children who died in 1981 and 1982, all from overdoses.

She is accused in the deaths of Joshua Sawyer on Dec. 12, 1981; Richard “Ricky” Nelson, 8 months, who died July 3, 1981; Patrick Zavala, 4 months, who died Jan. 17, 1982; Rosemary Vega, 2 years old, who died Sept. 16, 1981; and Paul Villarreal, who was 3 months old when he died Sept. 24, 1981.

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Jones’ attorney, Cornelius Cox, filed a motion for a speedy trial, which was denied, and asserted a violation of his client’s right to due process. He also sought to have all five charges dismissed because he said Bexar County prosecutors under four district attorneys “had more than 30 years to bring more charges against her, and they didn’t.”

“It wasn’t that she was out in Mexico, she was in the custody of the state of Texas,” said Cox. “They knew where she was.”

During Jones’ nearly 35-year incarceration, a new law designed to ease jail crowding went into effect, and Jones was set to be released in March. The new indictments prevented that, and she was brought to Bexar County in December where she was formally arraigned. She pleaded not guilty to each charge.

Cox called as witnesses former prosecutor Nick Rothe, who argued the case involving the injured infant Rolando Santos; Judge Susan Reed, former Bexar County district attorney, who testified that she had one, possibily two investigators on the cases but brought no indictments; the current district attorney, Nicholas “Nico” LaHood, who defeated Reed and last year took the five cases to the grand jury; and Jason Goss, an assistant district attorney who is the lead prosecutor on the new charges.

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He said he sifted through 28 boxes of documents and evidence left from the 1980s investigations and among the findings was that in the1980s, hospitals wrote down nurse assignments in charts.

“They knew which shift, which bed,” Goss told the court. “That’s crucial, putting her in the room when a baby died.”

He testified about an eyewitness account from Rosemary Cantu, Rosemary Vega’s mother, who said she saw something, but that was never shared with the prosecutors; correspondence with the grand jury that “implied she killed other babies;” and a letter that “told us there were admissions no one has ever seen before.”

Goss then stated examples that could be construed as admissions or confessions by Jones.

ProPublica journalist Peter Elkind broke a story in 2017 about a nursing board letter in 2011 in which Jones stated: “I will take this opportunity to apologize to the nursing board for damage I did in my career. I know I was heinous,” Goss told the court.

“That was new, no one had any information that she confessed,” he said.

Goss also said they had at least two parole board members who had knowledge that Jones confessed, tearfully admitting in 1998 that she injected the children and that she was “sick.”

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“This would have been the first time she confessed,” Goss said.

In another instance, she told the board member, “I really did kill those babies.”

They also discovered a parole letter from an inmate who said Jones stated, “‘I didn’t kill the babies, the voices in my head did,’” Goss said.

He told the court based on the new evidence, they have “a much stronger case” now than in past administrations.

Cox maintains Jones’ right to due process has been violated.

“The court heard testimony for two hours. She has been in the custody of the state for three decades,” he told the court.

Jones, who wore a red Bexar County jail jumpsuit, went into court using a walker, a change from her December arraignment, when she entered in a wheelchair and wore a surgical-type mask. She was attentive and occasionally smiled when she spoke with Cox and Brigitte Garza, her attorneys.

The new charges against Jones are being heard in the 399th state District Court, presided by Judge Frank J. Castro, who told the court he would rule Friday on Cox’s motion to dismiss the cases.

Elizabeth Zavala is a San Antonio Express-News staff writer. Read more of her stories here. | ezavala@express-news.net | @elizabeth2863

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