Apart from its obvious religious connotations, the appellation Angel of Death is applied to a doctor, or nurse, who murders patients. Female serial killers are extremely rare, but there are currently two such angels of death behind bars in the UK and US right now.
In 1993, Beverley Allitt
was convicted of murdering four children and attacking nine others at the Grantham hospital where she worked. She is currently detained at Rampton
Recently, a Lithuanian website placed Allitt at number 10 in an ad hoc chart of women serial killers
. The chart doesn't even mention the Blood Countess
, who is surely the worst female serial killer of all time, so it remains to be seen how much merit it has. One woman though who most people would consider deserves a higher ranking than Allitt is Genene Jones, because although she was convicted only of one murder, she is suspected of committing many more.
In spite of the heinousness of her crimes, she is, or was until recently, less well known than Allitt. There is not much in the way of video about Jones and her crimes on YouTube; the following is extracted from the 1990 Transworld/Corgi edition of THE DEATH SHIFT The True Story of nurse Genene Jones and the Texas baby murders
, by Peter Elkind.
Genene Jones was born at San Antonio, Texas on July 13, 1950. She claimed to have been stabbed in a club, and to have been raped when aged only 16, but she appears to have been an habitual liar, like most psychopaths, so it remains to be seen how credible was that claim. She married and had a son, but divorced in 1974. Coming to nursing if not late then certainly not as do most nurses, she qualified in May 1977 after a career change, and was sacked from her first nursing post after eight months, although there was no sign of what was to come. She was also, unusually for a nurse even then, a heavy smoker.
Genene Jones took up a post at Bexar County Hospital, and also made 30 visits to the outpatient or emergency departments apparently suffering from diarrhoea, indigestion, etc, (and self-inflicted injuries, all in less than two and a half years). Allitt exhibited similar behaviour.
The parallels with Allitt continued as in May 1981, Christopher Hogeda died. This 10-month-old baby is believe to have been her first victim.
As with Allitt, so many babies were crashing at the time she was employed at the hospital that suspicions were soon aroused, but not the unthinkable suspicion — could this perhaps have been some sort of infection? It soon became apparent that all the cardiac arrests were on the 3-11 shift, the one which Jones worked, and this became known as the Death Shift.
The first person to point the finger at her was Patricia Alberti, a former army medic on the night shift, but she was not believed, and attempts were made to shut her up. Then clerk Patricia Lopez found supplies consistently going missing from the unit's crash cart, most notably the drug heparin; she too was ignored. Instead of calling in the police or even sacking Jones, the hospital "upgraded" the unit, got rid of all the licensed vocational nurses, and gave her a glowing reference. She took a temporary post at the Santa Rosa Medical Center where her work was found unsatisfactory, and in August 1982, she started work at a new clinic opened by an unsuspecting lady doctor, Kathy Holland. The clinic's first patient was one-year-old Chelsea Ann McClellan, who had pneumonia, and nearly died from a seizure. Later that week, a one-month-old premature girl nearly suffered the same fate, she had a respiratory arrest; the following month, Jones succeeded in murdering baby Chelsea Ann.
Five-month-old Jacob Evans arrived three hours after the baby's death, and nearly didn't survive much longer. Unfortunately, it was Dr Holland rather than Jones who came under suspicion. The penny finally dropped with Holland when she realised Jones had been tampering with phials of succinycholine, a drug that causes paralysis. It has been called the ideal murder weapon. After taking and failing a polygraph and being dismissed by Holland, Jones left town in October 1982 as a grand jury was convened to investigate the string of child deaths. By the time the story of the secret nvestigation broke, Jones was working in a San Angelo nursing home; she was finally ordered to appear before a grand jury on February 24, still not facing any charges.
There had been a total of nine incidents including eight children in 31 days at Dr Holland's clinic, then there was a big development. A new test for succinylcholine was perfected by a Swedish physician, and Chelsea McClellan's body was exhumed.
At this time, Jones was living in a trailer with a woman named Cathy Ferguson; after suffering a seizure while eating with Jones, Ferguson was rushed to hospital. This was possibly a warning to stop her testifying against her.
Shortly, the presence of succinylcholine in the body of baby Chelsea Ann was confirmed; the grand jury was convened the following week, and after 11 hours it issued eight indictments against Jones, including for the baby's murder. Jones was arrested, and her bail set at $225,000, which surprisingly her mother managed to raise after Jones had spent 36 days in gaol. Once her reluctant lawyer saw the evidence against her, he tried to convince her to run an insanity defence. She declined, and seemed to revel in the publicity surrounding the case, and at one point flew to New York to appear on TV. She was re-arrested when her bail bondsman revoked her bail due to circumstances unrelated to her case, and finally her trial began in January 1984. It took three days to select a jury from a panel of 329 potential jurors.
There were 44 prosecution witnesses and only seven for the defence, most of them experts, but they were unable to refute the succinylcholine test results. In his closing speech, Jones' advocate tried to point the finger at Kathy Holland, but the jury was out for less than four-and-a-half hours before convicting her.
Jones was put on trial for poisoning another baby who had died, but this was not a murder trial. It was heard by a judge sitting without a jury because Jones didn't think she could get a fair trial from one. There were no defence witnesses, and she was convicted. She appealed both her convictions but they were both upheld.
Although there was credible evidence that Jones had murdered many other babies — over 40 by most estimates — the state decided for whatever reason not to try her again. In spite of being gaoled for a total of 159 years, under Texas law she came up for parole in October 1989. No one would have expected it to have been granted, this is simply one of the checks and balances inserted into the legal system. She was duly refused. However, as explained in the above Fox News video, as things stand, Jones will be released in the next few years anyway due to an unforeseeable technicality.
What will happen if she is released? Like the even more notorious but less lethal Casey Anthony
, she would have to go into hiding.
In September 1978, Larry Singleton raped 15-year-old Mary Vincent, hacked off both her arms, and threw her over a cliff near Modesto, California. Incredibly, she survived, and at his trial he was given a 14-year sentence, which saw him released after a mere eight years. When however the authorities tried to house him and word leaked out, he had to be moved as a lynch mob surrounded him. Eventually he could be housed only in a trailer in the grounds of San Quentin State Prison.
After his parole ended, Singleton moved to Florida. In 1997 he murdered a prostitute in Tampa, the town of his birth. He was sentenced to death but died of cancer before he could be executed.
If Jones is released and her identity becomes known, she will "suffer" the same treatment as Singleton. And there is no doubt in the mind of Chelsea McClellan's mother and her supporters that like Singleton, she will kill again.