GEORGETOWN, Texas -- Scientists who performed tests on 15-month-old Chelsea McClellan's exhumed body capped an exhaustive day of technical medical testimony in nurse Genene Jones' murder trial Tuesday, telling jurors he found traces of a deadly muscle relaxant in the baby's tissues.
Dr. Fredric Rieders, a toxocologist who operates an independent laboratory in Pennsylvania, said he helped exhume Chelsea's body eight months after she died and then flew to Stockholm, Sweden to perform highly sensitive tests on the tissue samples.
Rieders said he detected the muscle relaxant succinylcholine in samples of Chelsea's thigh muscles and organs. Ms. Jones, 33, a mother of two, is accused of killing Chelsea with a drug injection at a Kerrville, Texas, pediatric clinic in 1982.
'Yes, in my opinion, I detected, identified and measured succinylcholine present in a number of the specimens,' Rieders said.
The jury was immediately dismissed for the day after Rieders' testimony.
The bulk of the day's testimony consisted of detailed discriptions of how the test was developed and how it was performed. In addition to Rieders' testimony, the toxocologist who developed the test also discussed his procedures along with the effects of succinylcholine.
Dr. Bo Holmstedt described the 'fearful, horrifying' effects of the muscle relaxant in earlier testimony.
Holmstedt was not asked specifically about tests for the drug performed in his lab on the exhumed remains of the child.
Holmstedt, however, said the drug paralyzes muscles, causing small, painful twitchings under the skin, while slowing the heart rate and stopping breathing. He said the drug caused noticeable changes in the muscles of the eyes, hands and feet.
Chelsea's mother, Petti McClellan, 28, testified Monday the child showed those symptoms after receiving an injection on two occasions from Ms. Jones. She said the child's arms began flopping around and her eyes got all strange looking moments after the injections.
In cross examination, defense attorney Jim Brookshire's questions suggested succinylcholine could be formed naturally in human tissue. He also suggested that Holmstedt's tests were not precise enough to detect the drug in minute amounts.
Mrs. McClellan said Chelsea had a cold in August 1982 the first time she went to Dr. Kathleen Holland's pediatric clinic in Kerrville, Texas, where Ms. Jones worked. She said minutes after Ms. Jones took the child into an examining room, the baby suffered a seizure, though later tests indicated nothing was wrong with her.
Chelsea accompanied her mother to the clinic again Sept. 17, 1982, when Mrs. McClellan's son Cameron, now 5, had the flu. Ms. Jones was assigned to give Chelsea routine immunizations, but Mrs. McClellan said within minutes of the first her daughter started acting funny. The child died on the way to a hospital in San Antonio.
District Judge John Carter Tuesday denied a mistrial motion by defense attorneys based on jurors' complaints they were being harassed by television cameramen. Carter threatened to bar all cameras from courthouse grounds if the alleged harassment continued.