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‘In A Killer’s Care’: The story behind one of Texas’ most notorious alleged serial killers Genene Jones

SAN ANTONIO – Convicted baby killer Genene Jones has been an infamous part of San Antonio’s history for decades.

She’s been called “the killer nurse” and “angel of death.” For many, she’s synonymous with evil.

CLICK ON THE PLAYER ABOVE TO WATCH KSAT’S NEWS AT 9 SPECIAL INTO GENENE JONES, THE SO-CALLED “KILLER NURSE" AND "ANGEL OF DEATH.”

When babies began to die under Jones’ care at Bexar County Hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in 1981, it didn’t take long for people to eye Jones as the possible culprit.

She’s suspected of causing the deaths of dozens of babies. But until this year, she had only been convicted in the death of one.

This story is strange and spans the course of nearly 40 years. And even though KSAT News at 9 has tried to piece together all the pieces of this saga, there are still some things we’ll likely never know – how many patients did Jones kill? Why was she able to continue harming children for so long? And why would someone do this to babies?

(Image of babies who died in Genene Jones' care.)
(Image of babies who died in Genene Jones' care.) (KSAT)

To tell the most complete story possible, we have relied not only on our own reporting, but the reporting and memories of others. That list includes prosecutors, legal and medical experts, KSAT’s Paul Venema, San Antonio Express-News courthouse reporter Elizabeth Zavala and journalist Peter Elkind.

Elkind is the author of The Death Shift, a 1980 book about Genene Jones’ background, time as a nurse and her original trial and conviction.

("The Death Shift" by Peter Elkind.)
("The Death Shift" by Peter Elkind.) (KSAT)

THE PEOPLE

First Baby Conviction: Chelsea McLellan

(image of Chelsea McClellan.)
(image of Chelsea McClellan.) (KSAT)

The first baby Genene Jones was convicted of killing. Chelsea McClellan was 15 months old when her mother took her to Dr. Kathleen Holland’s clinic in Kerrville in 1982. Jones injected with a deadly dose of muscle relaxer.

Guilty plea in Joshua Sawyer case; Indicted in four more baby deaths

(Image of Joshua Sawyer.)
(Image of Joshua Sawyer.) (KSAT)

Jones pleaded guilty to murder in the death of 11-month-old Joshua Sawyer in January 2020, more than 39 years after his death. Joshua was being treated for smoke inhalation at Bexar County Hospital’s Pediatric ICU in December 1981, when he died from a seizure medication overdose.

Before Jones’ guilty plea in Sawyer’s death, she had been indicted in the four more baby deaths:

- Richard “Ricky” Nelson on July 3, 1981

- Rosemary Vega on Sept. 16, 1981

- Paul Villarreal on Sept. 24, 1981

- Patrick Zavala on Jan. 17, 1982.

They were all patients at the hospital and ranged in age from 3 months to 2 years. Those cases were dismissed after Jones plead guilty.

Petti Coats McClellan-Wiese

(Image of Petti McClellan via "The Death Shift.")
(Image of Petti McClellan via "The Death Shift.") (KSAT)

In 1982, Petti McClellan took her daughter Chelsea to a Kerrville clinic where Jones was employed by Dr. Kathleen Holland. Jones injected Chelsea with an overdose of a muscle relaxer and caused Chelsea’s death.

After her daughter’s death, McClellan became a voice and an advocate for mothers that had been affected by Jones’ actions. She died in June 2019 in Louisiana at the age of 64.

Jones was convicted in 1984 and sentenced to 99 years in prison in the murder of Chelsea and the attempted murder of Rolando Santos.

BELOW IS A STORY MAP DETAILING JONES’ PATH FROM NURSE TO CONVICTED MURDERER

BELOW IS A GUIDE AND BIOS FOR THE EXPERTS, JOURNALISTS, PROSECUTORS AND DOCTORS WE INTERVIEWED FOR THIS SPECIAL:

Genene Jones Infographic
Genene Jones Infographic

PART 1: Genene Jones and the origins of “The Death Shift”

PART 2: The death of Chelsea McClellan, chilling exhumation and an investigation into Jones

PART 3: Genene Jones trial in Georgetown and Petti McClellan’s emotional testimony

PART 4: Why was Genene Jones never punished for her crimes at Bexar County Hospital?

PART 5: Genene Jones re-indicted, the fight over her bible and “voices in her head”

PART 6: Mothers of victims bond amid Genene Jones’ heinous acts


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