ANGLETON, Texas — A homicidal nurse believed responsible for killing dozens of babies is scheduled for release from the Texas prison system where she was sentenced to serve 99 years.
Genene Jones, now 64, was sentenced in 1985 for killing a 15-month-old girl. She later was convicted in another attempted homicide and sentenced to a concurrent 60-year term.
Prosecutors now believe she may have been responsible for the deaths of more than 40 infants at hospitals where she worked in Kerrville and San Antonio. Her method: injecting the babies with powerful muscle relaxants, killing them in their cribs.
Jones had a routine parole hearing Wednesday here, but whether she leaves prison this year won't be decided until at least next week. Crime-victim advocates believe that her request for parole will be rejected as it has been at least 11 times previously and officials will order her to remain incarcerated.
"This is an individual who should never be out of prison," said Susan Reed, the Bexar County district attorney who has launched an effort to find evidence to convict Jones of another crime.
Under mandatory release laws from the 1980s designed to relieve Texas prison overcrowding, even the most violent and dangerous criminals were credited with three days in prison for every day of good behavior behind bars. The law since has been revised, but it still applies to criminals convicted during that era.
As a result, Jones is scheduled for release in early 2018.
"She's probably going to be the first serial killer in this country's history to be legally released," said Andy Kahan, the City of Houston's crime-victim advocate.
The case has been the subject of lurid true-crime books and at least two movies. Stephen King fans find similarities between Jones and Annie Wilkes, the fictional killer nurse that actress Kathy Bates won an Oscar for portraying in the film version ofMisery.
But to this day, mothers still grieve, cherishing photographs of newborns who never came home from the hospital.
"And I only have one picture of her," said Linda Ybarbo, who lost a newborn daughter. "They gave me that picture the day she passed away. As a young mother, it was your baby. She was an angel."
Fathers continue to go over the details of their children's deaths in their minds.
"It was a really rough time," said George Planos, who also lost a newborn daughter. "I'm like, 'But you just told us today she was getting better. What's going on? Why did she die?' And they said, 'We don't know.' "
Nick Rothe, prosecutor in the case, recalled Jones' lack of emotion about the deaths.
"Very strange," he said. "You would think maybe you'd get a tear or a smile about something. But I never saw it. And I saw a lot of her every day."
Now prosecutors, victimized families and anti-crime activists are working on a strategy to keep one of Texas' most notorious serial killers behind bars, similar to an effort that kept Coral Watts, another serial killer, in prison despite his conviction under the old Texas law. Watts confessed to killing 13 women, most of them in the Houston area, during the early 1980s.
He was sentenced to 60 years, but under the mandatory release rules he was scheduled to go free in 2006.
Authorities in Michigan, where Watts admitted killing a number of other women in exchange for a plea bargain, launched an effort to review old cases and convict him of another homicide. As a result of publicity surrounding his release, an eyewitness to a 1974 murder recognized Watts and offered testimony that kept him in prison until his death in 2007.
Murder cases have no statute of limitations.
"So we're doing the same campaign," Kahan said. "We're putting Jones back on the map four years basically before she's scheduled to be released and hoping there's one case out there."