Killer Nurse: John Foxjohn
Lufkin is a city in Angelina County in Texas and was founded in 1882. The population in 2010 was just over 35 thousand. Lufkin is the county seat of Angelina County and located in Deep East Texas. Abraham P. Lufkin is the man it was named after a cotton merchant. Lufkin was also a city councilman in Galveston. Paul Bremond was married to Lufkin’s daughter and was president of the Houston, East/West Texas Railway. Lufkin celebrated its 125 anniversary in 2007.
Within the town of Lufkin a serial killer lurks. Imagine going to a dialysis center feeling relatively okay, alert and for the most part able to deal with the treatment and coming out with heart problems, blood pressure so low that you wind up in a coma, near death or die. What happens when a health care provider or nurse decides who should live or die just because she dislikes you or just because she hates the word patient? Author and former homicide detective John Foxjohn brings to light in his true crime novel, Killer Nurse what happens when a licensed vocational nurse at the Davita Dialysis Center decides to take the lives of innocent patients. Kimberly Clark Saenz a vocational nurse presents and image that is not only bone chilling, blood curdling but so terrifying that many patients would hesitate before ever going to one of these dialysis centers anywhere in the country. A retired police detective from Lufkin, John Foxjohn, relates in this novel the journey of the prosecution, defense, judge and jury as they relate in their own words the events that led up to the trial of what they might refer to of the century in this small town.
Kimberly Clark Saenz is a serial killer in every sense of the word. As the author relates what happens at this dialysis center we hear the voices of many workers, patients that managed to survive, family members and silent cries of those that did not survive. Implicated in the deaths of many of the patients in this center she never thought she would be convicted. Her cavalier attitude and the arrogance of her defense attorney Ryan Deacon only prove that she did not care about the charges, nor about the people she was supposed to take care of and many times as the story unfolds refused to help those in trouble or in need of help. In 2008 she was only 34 and a licensed practical nurse that disliked working with patients. Substance abuse dependence was just one of her problems and stealing Demerol from one of the facilities she worked in another. Wanting to only work as a med nurse should have been a red flag as her dependence on drugs would definitely profit she had access to the meds in the facilities she worked in. Fired for stealing the drugs and fired from at least four or five more health care jobs, she was able to forge ahead unscathed as her nursing license was free of any violations and she listed mis/disinformation on her applications for jobs. Even though she was arrested and out on bail she was told not to seek any jobs in health care but she was conniving and managed to circumvent the law. The author relates the facts of this trial in such detail that readers will be able to understand criminal procedures, how the jury is picked, the cause of death, the meanings of direct and circumstantial evidence and the fact the she took syringes and injected bleach into the IV’s of several dialysis patients causing their deaths from bleach poisoning. The frightening part is that she did not hesitate to commit murder, show any feelings or remorse nor any compassion for her victims. With a trial that took over four years to come to pass the prosecution team led by Clyde Herrington and the defense by Ryan Deacon presented evidence, witnesses and video taped depositions that will bring tears to the eyes of readers and strong doubt as to the management, health care and proper medical care administered within this Davita Dialysis in Lufkin.
Imagine coming into the facility getting hooked up to the machine and finding that the person that is supposed to care for you has another agenda. No one thought anything about the bleach buckets and whether they had been wrongly placed on the floor. No one thought that anyone would use a syringe instead of a cup to pour the bleach and why would anyone inject Saline in an IV when there was a full bag of saline already there. During their treatment Linda Hall and Leraline Hamilton, two eyewitnesses stated that on April 28, 2008 that Kimberly Saenz drew sodium hypochlorite, bleach, into syringes and injected the deadly substance into two patients’ dialysis lines at the clinic owned by DaVita Lufkin. With the help and foresight of the investigative officers beginning with Sergeant Steven Abbot and his team Sergeant Mike Shurley they were able to slowly piece together what happened. Staffing issues, operational problems, failure to monitor care provided for patients were just the tip of the iceberg of violations uncovered about this facility. Possible causes of deaths, death trends were never documented from September 2007- April 2008. But the DSHS gave DaVita ten days to comply to their charges as they were require to close their doors until the violations were fixed. The author elaborates on page 136 the procedures required, the staff that had to be implemented and the fact they would have to undergo what the state referred to as a “Safety Net program.” But, just because they complied does not mean that they were any better than before and many of their patients did not want to return out of fear. The author includes pictures of the defense team the defendant and Team Justice as they called themselves. Allowing readers to see the faces of Clyde Herrington the Prosecutor, Defense and death penalty expert attorney Steve Taylor, Ryan Deacon the Defense attorney, Chris Tortorice and Layne Thompson brings the story to life added in the faces of the amazing jury that handed down the right verdict.
Every step of the way the author relates the history of each patient that entered the facility, those that escaped death, those that did not. He gives readers the background on each lawyer, their experience, their schooling and even introduces information about the presiding judge allowing each one of us to feel part of the jury process and relive it along with the author, those involved and the judge.
Kimberly Saenz injected two patients right in front of two eyewitnesses with bleach. Several interesting witnesses were Cheryl Pettry the mitigation specialist brought in by Steve Taylor on the defense team. Added in we learn about the punishment phase if the defendant is found guilty. For anyone going into law and wanting to learn more about the criminal justice system this book is a great resource. Pettry’s assessment of the defendant is quite compelling as you hear her thoughts on page 171.
Herrington’s job was to educate the jurors and make sure that they understood what was required of them. He did not have to prove motive to convict her. This is one point that was never really made clear as to why she did it. Speculation at the end and in the Postscript would clarify the thoughts that many have on why she went on a killing spree. Defining circumstantial and direct evidence and giving examples was crucial to the prosecution’s case as he clearly defines both and provides concrete examples for the jurors and readers to understand. Pages 185-187 outline both. Hear the voices of the patients involved, listen to the family’s that testified and watch as the defendant’s demeanor and attitude do not mirror that of someone facing a possible capital murder charge and the death penalty. Did she do it as an angel of mercy? I doubt that. Did she do it because she had marital problems and took out her anger on the patients? Did she hate the people she was supposed to care for? Did she pick and choose? From the director of the facility to the many nurses, the patients, the employees, the medical experts and the expert witnesses this novel does not have an ordinary plot filled with characters that the author can bring back again and again. The characters are real. The story really happened. The names of those involved have not been changed and the end result and final verdict you need to read for yourself to understand what happens when a smug defense lawyer does not prepare his case as a professional, misrepresents the evidence and thinks beyond a shadow of doubt that his client will be found not guilty. With the help of the FDA who prepared a document that stated that the samples they received were tested positive for bleach while some did not. Fifty-one samples labeled with the numbers from 1-51 were sent to be tested to the FDA and CDC. The end result is shocking.
Added in Mark Kevin Saenz filed for divorce, had a restraining order against her. Woodland Heights Hospital could have started the ball rolling a lot faster had they made sure her nursing license was suspended. Firing her from her position did not stop her from getting other jobs in the field. She even worked as a receptionist in Lufkin medical office. The end result will shock you as the prosecutor believed and still does that there were more than ten victims.
The most compelling part was when at the end when the Victim Impact Statement portion of the trial takes place and the victim’s families addressed Saenz. Her sentence was pronounced on March 31, 2012 in Texas District Court. To find out if she received the death penalty and the sentence you need to read Killer Nurse.
A story so frightening and a killer so deadly you truly hope that the appeals process denies her the freedom she thinks she deserves.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer
This review is dedicated to the families of those that lost their lives, those that survived and the voices of those that were never heard. This is dedicated to Team Justice and to all those that fought hard to see justice done and to those 12 jurors and 3 alternates.
Thank you for sharing your story.