In 2008, at the time of the murders, Kimberly Clark
Saenz was a 34-year old licensed practical nurse. Saenz was married
with two young children. Saenz suffered from substance dependence and
used stolen prescription medication. Saenz had been fired at least
four-times from health care jobs and placed disinformation on an
application for employment and sought a health care job in violation
of the terms of her bail.
On March 31, 2012, in Texas District Court Kimberly
Clark Saenz a nurse was found guilty of the 2008 murders of five
kidney dialysis patients and injuring five other patients. On April 2,
2012, the Angelina County jury sentenced Saenz to life imprisonment
with no eligibility for parole and three 20-year sentences for
The five murder victims were: Clara Strange, Thelma
Metcalf, Garlin Kelley, Cora Bryant and Opal Few.
The two eyewitness accounts of Linda Hall and
Leraline Hamilton confirmed that on April 28, 2008, Saenz drew sodium
hypochlorite, commonly known as bleach, into syringes and injected the
substance into two patients dialysis lines at the dialysis clinic
owned by DaVita in Lufkin, Texas.
The Food and Drug Administration prepared a
document confirming that samples linked to some victims tested
positive for bleach while others showed bleach "may have been present
at one time."
Lufkin law enforcement officers testified at the
trial that they arrested Saenz for public intoxication and criminal
trespass. These incidents related to the domestic disturbances with
her husband, Mark Kevin Saenz. The husband had filed for divorce and
had obtained a restraining order against Saenz in June 2007, just one
year before the clinic deaths and illnesses.
The trial records reflected that prior to working
at DaVita, Saenz was fired from Woodland Heights hospital for stealing
Demerol, which was found in her handbag. Saenz was fired from DaVita
in April 2008 after the numerous deaths at the clinic. Saenz nursing
licence eventually was suspended. Saenz then applied to work as a
receptionist in a Lufkin medical office and lied on her job
application about previous employment.
At the victim impact statement portion of the trial
the daughter of victim Thelma Metcalf told Saenz, “You are nothing
more than a psychopathic serial killer. I hope you burn in hell”.
The prosecutor, Clyde Herrington, believed there
were more victims than just the ten indicted cases, based on the
research of the epidemiologist from the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention. The epidemiologist statistically connected Saenz to
other adverse health events to patients. Lufkin Police detectives
could only obtain medical waste from two weeks prior to April 28,
2008, so there was inadequate evidence to raise further indictments
against Saenz in the other incidents.
It was April 28, 2008. Kimberly Saenz arrived at
the DaVita Dialysis clinic in Lufkin wearing ponytails and scrubs. Her
supervisor, Amy Clinton, told her she would be working as a patient
care technician that day.
Clinton, a DaVita head honcho brought in from Houston following two
deaths at the clinic three weeks earlier, said the news distressed
Saenz, as she was accustomed to being a medication nurse. In her usual
role, she had free rein of the facility, going from patient to patient
to “push” medication from a syringe, sometimes needle-tipped, into
dialysis lines and ports.
According to Clinton, Saenz became visibly upset, wiping tears from
her eyes as she reluctantly got ready to do a job she felt was beneath
her — monitoring patients, cleaning up vomit and wiping up blood, as
it commonly spilled during dialysis.
Around 6 a.m., patients Marva Rhone and Carolyn Risinger entered the
facility. For people with failed kidneys, spending hours attached to a
dialysis machine three times a week can mean the difference between
life and death.
Although everyone at the clinic was on high alert with the recent
string of deaths, it seemed to a be a day like any other until two
patients said they saw something disturbing.
Sitting no more than 40 feet from Rhone and Risinger, patients Lurlene
Hamilton and Linda Hall said they watched Saenz squat down to place a
jug of bleach on the floor. She then poured the bleach into her
cleaning bucket and drew up 10 ccs of the caustic liquid into a
syringe, according to their testimony.
Her actions bothered the women for two reasons — one, the floor isn’t
sanitary, and two, Saenz seemed nervous. Hall and Hamilton said they
then watched her inject bleach into ports on the dialysis lines of
Rhone and Risinger.
Although neither of them went into cardiac arrest, testing would later
reveal that Rhone’s dialysis line tested positive for bleach.
Risinger’s line was not tested, as it had already been thrown away.
Being seen that day marked the end of Saenz’s reign of terror on the
clinic. A little more than four years to the day, a jury found her
guilty on a charge of capital murder, set to spend the rest of her
life in prison without the chance of parole for killing at least two
of the five murder victims named in an indictment. Five other people
who did not die were listed as victims of aggravated assault.
Looking back at the trial, prosecutor Clyde Herrington said there was
very little of the state’s evidence that the jury did not see. He said
he believes there were more victims than just the 10 indicted cases,
based on the research of a Centers for Disease Control epidemiologist.
Using the dates of adverse occurrences dating to 2007 paired with the
days Saenz worked, the epidemiologist statistically connected her to
the events more than any other DaVita employee. Because Lufkin Police
detectives were only able to obtain medical waste from two weeks prior
to April 28, Herrington could not obtain enough evidence to indict
Saenz in the other incidents.
“The only days there were deaths in April, she was there,” Herrington
said. “Dialysis patients are sick, but every source of information we
can find says it is very unusual for patients to die during dialysis
While the state doesn’t have to prove motive for a conviction,
Herrington said they did talk with a registered nurse who studied more
than 100 health care killers. According to her research, only 50
percent of health care killers that go to trial are convicted. The
most common method used by a health care killer is injecting a patient
with some type of medication or substance.
“Criminal behavior is something we’ve been trying to understand since
Cain killed Abel,” Herrington said. “Only when the health care killer
confesses do we know motive.”
As to Saenz’s specific motive, Herrington said he believes at the time
she was a troubled woman with marital problems who lashed out because
of job dissatisfaction. Before working at DaVita, he said, Saenz was
fired from Woodland Heights Medical Center for stealing Demerol, a
powerful narcotic painkiller.
“From talking to some of the folks who worked with her, it sounded
like her husband didn’t want her to quit (DaVita),” Herrington said.
“She was depressed. She was frustrated, and I think she took those
frustrations out on the patients.”
Maintaining his client’s innocence, defense attorney Ryan Deaton said
there is a lot of information he wishes the jury had heard. He said he
intends to be involved with Saenz’s appeal. She appeared in court
Wednesday to start the process.
“Hopefully she’ll get a new trial,” Deaton said.
Before her trial began, Deaton fought for the jury to have access to a
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report from May 2008 that
was heavily critical of DaVita’s practices. The report was ruled
inadmissible by state District Judge Barry Bryan.
According to the report, from Dec. 1, 2007, to April 28, 2008, the
facility had 19 deaths compared to 25 for 2007. Those numbers put the
facility at a mortality rate 7 percent above the state average.
The facility was also not keeping proper records of adverse
occurrences, the report stated. From Sept. 1, 2007, to April 26, 2008,
there were a total of 102 DaVita patients transported by ambulance to
local hospitals during or immediately following dialysis. Of those, 68
did not have a complete adverse occurrence report.
The report went on to state that based on record review and nursing
staff interview, the facility “did not demonstrate competence in
monitoring patients during treatment alerting nurses or physicians of
changes to a patient’s condition and following the physician’s orders
for the dialysis treatment.”
DaVita spokesman Vince Hancock said the company’s actions in April
2008 did not kill any Lufkin patients, as evidenced by the jury’s
“We hope that healing can start to occur for families of victims and
for our teammates who also have been victimized by the murderous acts
of Kim Saenz,” Hancock said.
While Saenz’s family has maintained their silence since the
sentencing, her husband said they are planning a press conference in
the near future.
Saenz remains in the Angelina County Jail pending prison transport.
In Monday's sentencing phase of
the trial, District Attorney Clyde Herrington called Bradley Baker, a
Lufkin Police Officer for the past 13 years.
Baker told the jury that on
April 29, 2008, around 8:30 p.m., he was called out to the home of
Mark Kevin Saenz, Saenz's husband. They were having marital issues at
"Ms. Saenz was banging on the
door of the house," said Baker.
Upon arriving at the house,
Baker said he issued a criminal trespass warrant against Saenz. He
also noticed Saenz appeared to be intoxicated.
"Her eyes were glassy and she
was having trouble answering questions," said Baker.
He said she admitted that she
was taking Cymbalta, and she knew it could make her dizzy although she
was driving that night. Baker then arrested Saenz, and she was fairly
cooperative when she was arrested for public intoxication.
Herrington then called upon
Lufkin Police Officer Sterling Glawson.
Glawson told jurors that he
received a call about a disturbance in June 2007, which was a dispute
between a husband and wife. When he arrived on the scene, Lawson said
he was informed that the argument started at Saenz's home in Pollok.
Mark Saenz left to go to his mother's boyfriend's home on Tulane Drive
in Lufkin, and Saenz followed. Mark Saenz was injured, and Kim Saenz
was arrested for assault family violence.
Herrington next called Sgt.
Stephen Abbott of the Lufkin Police Department, who previously
testified in the trial, to the stand.
Herrington presented a document
to Abbott, which Abbott testified was an Emergency Magistrate's
Protective Order, issued in June 2007. The prosecution also asked
Abbott about another document, which he testified was an original
petition for divorce, filed by Mark Saenz.
Records from Woodland Heights
Medical Center revealed Saenz had taken and was using Demerol, which
was located in her purse. The hospital threatened to suspend her
medical license, which had not happened before April 2008.
The state then rested.
Defense attorney Steve Taylor
called Vernon Dean Warren to the stand. He testified that he dated
Mark Saenz's mother.
Taylor asked the witness about
the night Saenz was banging on the door of his home. That night, he
said he asked that a criminal trespass warning be issued.
"I was out of town and I
received a call," said Warren.
Warren testified he has no ill
feelings against Saenz, and that she is welcome to his home at
Peggy Wells took the stand next
and testified she is a friend of Kim Saenz, knowing her for 33 years.
Wells said she met Saenz in kindergarten.
Taylor asked Wells about Saenz
not completing high school. Wells said Saenz dropped out her senior
"No," said Wells. "Because she
had a child that summer, our junior summer."
Taylor asked the witness if he
was afraid of Saenz after she got in trouble, following incidents at
the DaVita Clinic.
"No," said Wells.
Wells also testified that she
did not feel Saenz was a threat to her personally or her children.
Taylor called Wendy Bryan to the
stand next, who testified she worked at Fleetwood Transportation. It
was there at Fleetwood that the witness testified she met Kim Saenz.
She said Saenz met her husband there as well. Bryan testified Saenz
worked there for several years, and said Saenz was a good employee.
Taylor asked Wells about the
allegations brought against Saenz in 2008. Wells said Saenz had a
difficult time at that point, but her company would have provided her
"I would have absolutely hired
her. Absolutely, without a doubt," said Bryant.
The defense called upon Tonya
Monlar, a past co-worker of Saenz at Fleetwood Transportation.
"She was a very hard worker,
very thorough," said Monlar.
Monlar testified that she would
keep in contact, when possible with Saenz, throughout her sentence.
"If I can visit, I'll visit.
I'll write, and she's always in my prayers," said the witness.
Barbara Allen testified that she
taught both Kim Saenz and her son. During Saenz's high school years,
Allen recalls that Saenz played sports. Allen testified that she was
Saenz's cheerleading coach. Saenz was also active in other sports.
"She played softball," said
The witness said she remembered
when Saenz gave up her senior year of high school when she got
pregnant and went through with having the baby.
During Allen's testimony, Saenz
cried, as Allen complimented the "good" parenting job Saenz has done
with her son.
Steve Taylor called Scott
Bailey, an employee for Frito-Lay, to the stand.
Bailey testified that he asked
Saenz's daughter to play softball on the same team as his daughter. He
said Saenz was an active parent, "more active than most".
"Ms. Saenz was active at the
practices. She was there," said Bailey.
Karen Schumaker, the elementary
school principal of Central ISD for the past 11 years took the stand
next. She recalled what she remembered of Saenz's parenting with her
children. Schumaker testified that the daughter is now in the fifth
grade at the elementary school in Central.
"When [he] was younger, he
played baseball with my son. Kim was always there," said Schumaker.
Schumaker says she has been
keeping an eye on the daughter at school to make sure the
circumstances surrounding Saenz do not affect her.
"She's a great kid," said the
Taylor called Kevin Poage, the
pastor of Clawson Assembly of God to the stand as the next witness.
Poage testified that Saenz is a member of his church, and he was aware
of the allegations against her.
"We talked about this, and then
you know we waited for this to come. We went ahead and proceeded as
usual," said the witness.
Poage says he plans to continue
supporting Saenz in any manner the church can.
Frank G. AuBuchon was called
upon as the next witness. He said he retired from the Texas Department
of Criminal Justice.
Taylor questioned the witness
about the rules of the criminal justice system. The defense asked the
witness what life without parole means.
"It's a true life sentence,"
said AuBuchon. "Texas didn't have a true life sentence in 2005."
AuBuchon also described what
title the offender sentenced to life holds and the type of housing the
prisoners are be held in.
"These people will die in
custody," said the witness.
Taylor had the witness go
through the classifications of offenses committed by offenders in
"You very quickly in prison the
easiest way to do your time is to behave yourself. You get more
privileges," said AuBuchon.
The defense asked the witness
about the rules on receiving gifts in prison. AuBuchon said gifts are
limited and inmates are not allowed to receive clothing.
"What type of things can a
female offender receive in prison?" said Taylor.
"Letters and money," said
AuBuchon. "And, the money doesn't go directly to the offender. It goes
to their promissory account."
Taylor asked the witness what
advice he would give any female going to prison for life without
"Mind your own business. Don't
tell anybody why you're there. Obey the rules," said AuBuchon.
Following AuBuchon's testimony,
the defense rested, and the prosecution had no rebuttal.
Judge Barry Bryan then read the
charge to the jury in order for them to deliberate in the punishment
Taylor delivered his closing
speech to jurors before they began deliberations. He reminded jurors
that, by finding Saenz or anyone else guilty of capital murder, means
they would never see them in society again. He said "they will come
out in a box."
"You will never see them again
in society. They belong in another society now, the prison society,"
Taylor reminded jurors that
Saenz walked by them to come into court each day and would frequently
stop and stand outside of the courthouse talking with family. He says
she's the same woman who "did not bury her head in the sand," knowing
the charges against her. Taylor says she still supported her children.
The defense also pointed out
that Saenz will not get out again, citing there is no way she can get
out into society ever again.
"She's never getting out again.
Society will not see her," said Taylor.
Taylor said Saenz is not a
threat to society by being in the penitentiary.
"It's not a special place, just
another corner of hell. And, she will be there the rest of her life,"
Herrington pointed out that
Saenz was found stealing Demerol at her job in 2005. Documents, he
says, also revealed that Saenz administered Demerol to patients who
were not in pain.
The prosecution also reminded
jurors of the criminal history against Saenz involving conflict with
her husband. And, he reminded jurors of what he believed Saenz did at
the Lufkin DaVita Clinic in 2008.
"I'm sure that her family has
suffered," said Herrington. However, he asked jurors not to forget
about the victims in this case.
"They are innocent victims,"
said Herrington. "The only thing they did wrong was trust the
Herrington shared pictures with
the jury, reminding jurors of the victims' incidents at the clinic.
The jury was then dismissed for
Victim's family members were
allowed to give impact statements following the sentencing. The
daughter of Thelma Metcalf told Saenz "because of someone like you
[Saenz]" her mother was no longer alive. She also said, "to have this
outcome is satisfying."
Metcalf's daughter recalled it
is four years to the date that her mother died.
An alternate juror says he was
unhappy with the outcome of the whole trial.
"From the beginning to the end,
I felt she was innocent. And, I still feel that way," said Brian
Bowling wasn't one of the 12
people who found Saenz guilty and sentenced the former nurse To life
in prison. But, as an alternate juror, Bowling sat in on all testimony
in case he was needed. If he had been called to vote, he says he could
have made a difference.
"I don't believe the state
satisfied the burden of proof," said Bowling.
Prosecuting attorney Clyde
Herrington says it was a job well done, underscored by the jury's
"I was scared that we would not
be able to present the facts of this case in a manner that they were
understandable by jury," said Herrington.
Family members like the daughter
of victim opal few, are happy to move past this part of tragedy.
"I think the jury did a great
job. I would not have wanted to be in their shoes, under any means.
I'm just grateful that the guilty verdict was reached. Grateful that
she won't be allowed the opportunity to do it again to some other
family," said Linda Few.
"The sentencing was fair. She
got what was do unto her. She's of age and she's held accountable for
what she does," said the daughter of victim Cora Bryant, Angela Scott.
The Saenz family declined to
comment on the sentence. However, Defense Attorney Steve Taylor says
life in prison is a fair decision.
"We think the jury worked hard.
They listened to 17 days of testimony. They sat there without opening
their mouths. One day off, they came back and deliberated over 14
hours in 2 days," said Taylor.
After the punishment was read,
Saenz returned to Angelina County Jail, while her legal team is
already starting the appeals process.
Kimberly Saenz, ex-nurse
convicted of bleach killings, sentenced to life in prison
April 2, 2012
(CBS/AP) LUFKIN, Texas- Kimberly Saenz, a former
East Texas nurse who killed five kidney dialysis patients by injecting
them with bleach, escaped the death penalty and was sentenced to life
in prison Monday.
A jury in Angelia County convicted the 38-year-old
on Friday of killing five patients and deliberately injuring five
others at a clinic run by Denver-based health care giant DaVita Inc.
Saenz was fired in April 2008 after a rash of
illnesses and deaths at the clinic in Lufkin, about 125 miles
northeast of Houston. Her lawyers argued Saenz wrongly took the blame
for the clinic's sloppy procedures.
"She's never getting out no matter what you do,"
said Steve Taylor, Saenz's lawyer, in his closing remarks, urging
jurors to choose a life sentence. "Society is protected. You will
never see her again."
Taylor reminded jurors Saenz had been free during
the trial. Prosecutors failed to show she would present a future
danger for violence, one of the questions jurors must answer in
deciding a death penalty.
Angelina County District Attorney Clyde Herrington
never specifically urged jurors to impose the death penalty but
pointed out how Saenz was found with drugs stolen while she was
working as a hospital nurse, and tried to fake a urine test that was
required of her.
"I know you'll reach a verdict that's just and in
accordance with the law," he said after showing them photos of some of
the victims on a large screen in the courtroom.
Nurse facing the death penalty after being found
guilty of killing five patients by injecting IV lines with BLEACH
March 31, 2012
A nurse is facing the death penalty after she was
found guilty of injecting dialysis tubes with bleach, killing five
patients and injuring five more.
Kimberly Saenz, 38, was last night found guilty of
capital murder in the deaths and aggravated assault in the injuries at
the DaVita Dialysis clinic in Lufkin, Texas.
As her trial, which began on March 5, moves to the
punishment phase, the mother-of-two will face either life imprisonment
or the death penalty. Prosecutors had said they would seek the death
penalty if she was convicted.
Saenz was caught after a top fire official wrote an
anonymous letter pleading for state health department inspectors to
visit a clinic because of numerous calls for paramedics.
The April 2008 letter said: 'In the last two weeks,
we have transported 16 patients.This seems a little abnormal and
disturbing to my med crews. Could these calls be investigated by you?'
Within days, surveyors arrived. By that time,
emergency crews had been called 30 times that month, including seven
for cardiac problems. Four people had died.
This was compared to just two calls during the
previous 15 months, according to the Texas Department of Health
A review of clinic records by an inspector found
Saenz was on duty for 84 per cent of instances where patients suffered
chest pain or cardiac arrest.
On April 28, 2008, two dialysis patients said they
did not feel well and two others reported that they saw Saenz inject
bleach into tubing used by patients Marva Rhone and Carolyn Risinger.
Saenz, who had held her entry-level position as a
licensed vocational nurse for eight months, was sent home and fired
the next day.
A year later, an indictment listed sodium
hypochlorite, also known as bleach, as the 'deadly weapon' used by
Saenz to kill five people, including Rhone and Risinger.
Saenz's lawyers previously said she had no motive
'Kimberly Saenz is a good nurse, a compassionate, a
caring individual who assisted her patients and was well liked,'
defense attorney T. Ryan Deaton said.
He argued that Saenz was being targeted by the
clinic's owner for faulty procedures at the facility, including
improper water purification, suggesting that officials at the clinic
fabricated evidence against her.
Saenz didn't take the stand in her own defense. But
in a recording played at trial, she could be heard testifying before a
grand jury that she felt 'railroaded' by the clinic and 'would never
inject bleach into a patient'.
Prosecutors described claims Saenz was being set up
by her employer as 'absolutely ridiculous'.
They described her as a depressed and disgruntled
employee who complained about specific patients, including some of
those who died or were injured.
Saenz had sworn in an affidavit she had no previous
felony record. But documents filed by Angelina County District
Attorney Clyde Herrington listed about a dozen instances of
They included allegations Saenz overused
prescription drugs, had substance abuse and addiction problems, was
fired at least four times from health care jobs and put false
information on an employment application, the AP reported.
Investigators examined blood tubing, IV bags and
syringes used by the DaVita patients, who visited the clinic to have
their blood filtered.
They testified that they found Internet searches on
Saenz's computer about bleach poisoning in blood and whether bleach
could be detected in dialysis lines.
Saenz told the grand jury she had been concerned
about the patients' deaths and looked up bleach poisoning references
to see 'if this was happening, what would be the side effects'.
She was charged with one capital murder count
accusing her of killing as many as five patients, and with five counts
of aggravated assault for the injuries to the five other patients.
On the capital murder count, jurors could have
found her guilty of the lesser charges of murder or aggravated