Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Genene Jones: Baby Killer

Death Moves On

Dr. Kathleen Holland (RL)
Dr. Kathleen Holland

In 1982, Dr. Kathleen Holland opened a pediatrics clinic in Kerrville, Texas. Needing help, she hired Genene Jones. She had worked at Bexar County Hospital with her and had even testified on her behalf during the investigation. Although Dr. Holland was warned in veiled tones not to hire Genene, she went ahead and did it, viewing Genene as a victim of the male-dominated medical patriarchy. She believed that Genene was a competent nurse who just needed a chance, and she gave her the title pediatric clinician. According to Carol Anne Davis, Holland helped to move Genene to Kerrville and rented rooms to her and her two children.

Just months after Genene left Bexar, someone found a novel with her name in it called The Sisterhood, written by best-selling ER physician Michael Palmer. The plot centered on a group of medical professionals who were pledged to end human suffering by terminating patients who they believed would be better off dead. They had a specific protocol in place to ensure the most careful scrutiny, but as always in fiction, someone took things too far.

Bookcover of Murder Most Rare by M & C Kelleher
Bookcover of Murder
Most Rare by M & C

In Murder Most Rare, Michael D. Kelleher and C.L. Kelleher reserve a chapter for "lethal caretakers," medical professionals who kill their patients. This contemporary form of the Angel of Death, they say, "embodies an especially pernicious darkness in our humanity by systematically attacking the weak and defenseless who have been involuntarily placed into her care or must rely on her for comfort and support." These people carry out their crimes within institutions where chemicals and syringes are abundant and where they can hide their behavior for long periods of time. Typically they select patients whose deaths are explainable because they were in some weakened or near-fatal condition already. Easy to kill, easy to cover up.

Yet what motivates these people? "Ego and a compulsion for domination," say the authors. "She is obsessed with the need to control those who are completely dependent on her. Some, like Genene Jones, are also motivated by a need for attention. While they appear to be going about their routines, they are making decisions about who should live and who should die. What happens to the patient does not matter to the caretakers; what matters is what the incident does for them."

Many parents around Kerrville were happy to have Dr. Holland's clinic available, but during a period of two months that first summer, seven different children succumbed to seizures while in her office. In one case, Genene told a worried mother that the child was just having a tantrum — an understatement that nearly cost the child her life. Holland transferred each of them by ambulance to Kerr County's Sid Peterson Hospital, never thinking the seizures were suspicious. Yet Genene's accounts of these incidents always differed from those of other professionals involved — and one of them had seen her inject something into a child who then had seizures. From the sheer numbers of children afflicted in the same clinic, the hospital staff thought something odd must be going on, especially since the kids always recovered quickly while in the hospital.

Holland assumed the severity of the situation was because she was a specialist, not a generalist, so the worst cases were brought to her. At least they had all recovered.

But then Chelsea McClellan died while en route from the hospital to another facility. Dr. Holland was devastated, as were Chelsea's parents. The child had not even been very ill. The same day, after Genene had returned to the clinic to see another patient, the boy went into seizures and had to be resuscitated. The child stabilized and his parents later commented that Genene had appeared to be quite excited over the incident, even happy. Tests afterward indicated there was no reason for such an unexpected episode.

At about that time, a doctor at Sid Peterson discovered the high number of baby deaths at the hospital where Genene Jones had previously worked. He brought this to the attention of a committee, and they began to realize that she was doing something to these children. They brought in Dr. Holland and asked if she was using succinylcholine, a powerful muscle relaxant. She said she had some in her office but did not use it. Without telling her, someone on the committee notified the Texas Rangers.

Holland told Genene about the meeting, and Genene assured Dr. Holland that she had found the bottle of succinylcholine that was missing. The cap was gone, and Holland began to have suspicions.

On September 27, while Genene was at lunch, Dr. Holland examined the bottles of succinylcholine. They were both nearly full, but one of them had pinprick holes through the rubber stopper. When Genene could not give a credible accounting of it and even suggested they just throw the bottle away to avoid questions, Dr. Holland was alarmed. She later learned that the near-full bottle had been filled with saline. In other words, someone had been using a lot of this dangerous drug, which paralyzed people into a sort of hell on earth: they lay inert but aware and unable to get anyone's attention.

Before she could take any action, Dr. Holland was faced with another crisis: Genene told her that she had taken an overdose of doxepin, a drug to fight anxiety. She had to have her stomach pumped, but it turned out that she had not overdosed at all. She had taken only four of the pills, but she had faked a semi-coma, forcing emergency personnel to treat her.

Then Holland discovered that another bottle of succinylcholine had been ordered but was missing. On September 28, she fired Genene and offered any help she could to the investigation.

Even so, families left her practice and Sid Peterson suspended her privileges. For hiring Genene Jones, Holland was losing everything. Even her husband divorced her. On top of that, she saw evidence that Genene was trying to frame her and she began to fear for her own life.

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