(HOUSTON) -- A nurse convicted in 1984 of killing an infant and suspected of murdering dozens more will be released from prison without completing her 99-year sentence because of an expired Texas law that grants a "mandatory release" to inmates with good behavior. On May 14, 1984, Genene Anne Jones, now 63, was sentenced for the murder of 15-month-old Chelsea McClellan in 1982 in a small-town pediatric clinic where Jones was a nurse.
"I was holding Chelsea, she was facing me, and Jones gave her the first shot in her left thigh. Immediately, Chelsea had trouble breathing. Chelsea was trying to say my name, but she couldn't. I was extremely upset," Petti McClellan, the victim's mother, told ABC News. Jones began injecting the child with a lethal dose of the muscle relaxant succinylcholine while the baby was still in her mother's arms, according to Petti and court records. Jones was also convicted of injuring a child in another attack in which the child survived. She was sentenced to 60 years on that conviction, but it was ordered to be served concurrently with the 99-year sentence.
Ron Sutton, the criminal prosecutor who won the murder conviction, estimates that Jones is responsible for the deaths of between 11 and 46 infants in Bexar County from 1978 and 1982. "I was present when all the investigators were adding up the numbers and, 11 to 46... I can confirm that that's what it was," Sutton told ABC News. For Petti those numbers are stunning. "Just the idea of a serial killer walking free in the United States of America is the craziest thing I have ever heard of," she said. Petti, 59, and those opposed to Jones' release are trying to find another of her alleged victims for a fresh murder prosecution in order to prevent her release. "I truly feel it in my heart that this is something I have to do," Petti said. "How does it make me different from her if I don't do anything?" But their efforts are complicated by the fact that the facilities where the children died have destroyed records surrounding the infants' deaths. "A lot of the victims' medical records and documents were shredded or disappeared from the hospital where Jones worked," Andy Kahan, a victim's advocate for the Houston mayor's office, told ABC News. The facility, now called University Hospital, declined to comment on any aspect of the story.
Jones is scheduled to be released from prison on Feb. 24, 2018, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. She will have served 35 years, about one-third of her sentence. Jones will be released because of a Texas law called Mandatory Supervision. Enacted in 1977, the law allowed all convicted criminals to be automatically released on parole after they complete a certain amount of calendar time and good conduct time, which includes participating in work and self-improvement programs, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice parole and mandatory release guide. Mandatory Supervision was amended in 1987 to exclude violent criminals. But any violent criminal convicted in Texas before 1987 is still eligible for early release, according to the guide.
"Genene Jones has been eligible for parole since 1989, and every three years since 1989 her case has been renewed and parole been denied," Harry Batson, a public information officer for the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole, told ABC News. "But mandatory release has nothing to do with parole," Batson said. "Even though she has been continually denied parole, that has no bearing on her release."
Jones is currently being held in the Carole S. Young Medical Facility, a correctional center in Dickinson, Texas. Batson could not say whether Jones was receiving medical care, but did say that the facility was reserved for inmates needing medical attention. Jones did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
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