GEORGETOWN, Texas -- Pediatric nurse Genene Jones, charged with injecting several children with deadly drugs, goes on trial for murder Monday, hoping to shed the label of baby killer.
The licensed vocational nurse could face life in prison if convicted in the death of 15-month-old Chelsea Ann McClellan, a patient at the Kerrville pediatric clinic where Ms. Jones worked in 1982. Eight other charges of injury to a child are pending against her.
'I'm sick and tired of being crucified alive and having people think I'm a baby killer,' she told Texas Monthly magazine last summer. 'I haven't killed a damn soul.'
Ms. Jones' alleged motive is bizarre, much of the evidence against her is circumstantial and the anticipated three-week trial is expected to unfold a complex tapestry of unexplained infant illnesses that seemed to follow the 33-year-old nurse from job to job.
Prosecutors claim Ms. Jones so loved the thrill and ego boost of reviving sick children that she injected them with life-threatening drugs to test her nursing skills.
Genene Ann Jones was a divorced beautician with two young children when she entered nursing school in San Antonio in 1977. In late 1978, she began working in the pediatric intensive care unit of San Antonio's Bexar County Hospital, now called Medical Center Hospital.
She was described by some of her co-workers as loud and overbearing, but others admired her expert nursing skills and intelligence.
When a fellow nurse reported to superiors in 1981 that several children seemed to have died mysteriously while under Ms. Jones' care, an internal investigation was conducted.
The internal report concluded 10 children died of sudden and unexplained complications while Ms. Jones was attending them, but hospital officials did not notify authorities. Ms. Jones was moved out of the pediatric intensive care unit and she resigned in March 1982.
Dr. Kathleen Holland, who has said she knew of the rumors about Ms. Jones but did not believe them, hired her that summer to work in her new pediatric clinic in Kerrville, Texas.
Several children who were brought to the clinic for nothing more serious than a monthly checkup or the sniffles allegedly experienced sudden breathing difficulties moments after they were taken from their parents' arms into an examining room.
One child, Chelsea McClellan, died.
A group of suspicious Kerrville doctors contacted Kerr County authorities, evenutally leading to grand jury investigations in both Kerr and Bexar counties.
On May 25, 1983 -- two weeks after a controversial Swedish procedure found traces of the muscle relaxant, succinylcholine chloride, in Chelsea's exhumed body -- Genene Jones was indicted in Kerr County on one charge of murder and seven charges of injury to a child.
Late last year, a Bexar County grand jury indicted her on one count of injury to a child stemming from an incident at Medical Center Hospital.
In an article in last August's Texas Monthly, the nurse said the incompetency of several doctors was responsible for the illnesses and strange deaths.
A month before Ms. Jones was indicted, she married 19-year-old Garron Ray Turk, a nursing home aide in San Angelo. Turk filed for divorce in December.
After Ms. Jones' $225,000 bail was revoked last October and she was jailed in Georgetown, she unexpectedly announced she was pregnant. She recanted that claim last month.
Also shortly after she entered jail, her son, 11, was placed in a foster home and welfare officials gave custody of her daughter, 6, to Ms. Jones' mother in San Antonio.
Several medical malpractice suits were filed against her as well as against Dr. Holland, who was barred from practicing at Kerrville's hospital.
If acquitted of the murder charge in Georgetown, where the trial was moved because of publicity, Ms. Jones still faces as many as eight separate trials on other charges.
The Bexar County grand jury investigation into the Medical Center Hospital deaths is continuing.