Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Texas appeals court upholds murder conviction of ex-nurse dubbed ‘Angel of Death’

The court rejected speedy trial and due process claims raised by former nurse Genene Jones after she pleaded guilty last year to killing another toddler in the 1980s.

SAN ANTONIO (CN) — Rejecting speedy trial and due process claims, a Texas appeals court ruled Wednesday that an ex-nurse convicted last year of killing a second young child in the 1980s was not unfairly charged and convicted.

A three-judge panel of Texas’ Fourth Court of Appeals concluded that the indictment charging Genene Jones with the murder of an 11-month-old-child more than three decades later was the result of a strong case, and not for the purpose of denying her a fair trial or keeping her “continuously incarcerated” as she argued.

“The record shows that the decision to indict in 2017 was the result of favorable changes in the law, additional evidence gathered, and a difference of opinions among prosecutors about whether to pursue charges,” Chief Justice Rebecca C. Martinez wrote for the panel.

Jones, 71, dubbed the “Angel of Death” because of her suspected ties in the murders of dozens of young children, admitted on Jan. 16, 2020, to killing Joshua Sawyer less than two weeks before Christmas in 1981 while she worked as a nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit at a San Antonio hospital. She was sentenced to life in prison.

She was already serving prison terms of 99 years and 60 years for the death of 15-month-old Chelsea McClellan and for injecting a 4-week-old boy with the blood thinner heparin. The boy survived the attack.

But Jones was grandfathered into a 1977 mandatory release law that would have let her out of state prison in 2018. That changed when former Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood indicted Jones in 2017 in the murders of five young children dating back to the early 1980s, preventing her release under the law meant to curb overcrowded prisons.

The remaining four cases were dismissed under the plea agreement, but Jones reserved her right to appeal the trial court’s denial of her motion to dismiss.

She claimed on appeal that the state acted in “bad faith” for waiting until she was pending release on parole to indict her on additional charges. But the appeals court found that “the length of the delay to trial is measured from the time of arrest or charge.”

“Jones does not argue that the delay to trial, measured from the time of her indictment in 2017, was unreasonable,” the 7-page opinion states. “Instead, her complaint concerns the state’s delay in bringing the indictment in 2017 related to a death that occurred in 1981. Her complaint does not implicate speedy trial concerns.”

Jones’ attorney, Cornelius Cox of San Antonio, did not return an email seeking comment Wednesday morning. Jones has the option of filing a petition for review to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin, which has discretion to accept the case for review or let the appeals court ruling stand.

Jones had been expected to face trial last year but changed her not-guilty plea at a hearing in January where she also heard from the family members of four of the victims who were allowed to deliver victim-impact statements, including Sawyer’s mother Connie Weeks.

“You should have to serve one year for every year of life you robbed from the babies that you murdered,” said Weeks. “Although that’s not possible, you will definitely serve the remainder of your life in prison for the babies lives you cut short. So I will leave you with this: I hope for you to live a long and miserable life behind bars. Goodbye.”

Jones remains incarcerated at the Murray Unit, a women’s prison in Gatesville, Texas. She will be parole eligible in 2037 when she is 87.

Follow Erik De La Garza on Twitter

Follow @@eidelagarza
Categories / Appeals, Civil Rights, Criminal

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.