Ex-nurse convicted of bleach killings awaits fate

LUFKIN, Texas (AP) — The punishment phase began Monday in the capital murder trial of an East Texas nurse who could go to death row for killing five kidney dialysis patients by injecting them with bleach.

Jurors who convicted Kimberly Saenz began hearing evidence to decide whether she receives life in prison without the chance of parole or lethal injection.

Saenz, 38, was convicted Friday of killing the patients and deliberately injuring five others at a clinic run by Denver-based health care giant DaVita Inc.

Photos of the victims were among the evidence introduced Monday by Angelina County District Attorney Clyde Herrington.

Prosecutors called only three witnesses before resting their case. All were Lufkin law enforcement officers who told of arresting Saenz for public intoxication and of citing her for criminal trespass, both related to domestic disturbances with her husband. Records introduced also showed her husband had filed for divorce and obtained an emergency protective order against her in June 2007, a year before the outbreak of death and illnesses at the Lufin Davita clinic.

Her lawyer, Steve Taylor, brought out in questioning that Saenz and her husband had reconciled.

Other records showed she had been fired from her job as a Lufkin hospital nurse after drugs showed up missing and were found in her purse. Her nursing license eventually was suspended. And prosecutors showed records she had submitted false information on a job application in 2009, indicating she worked at a roofing company during the years when she was a nurse.

Taylor also called more than a half dozen witnesses who attested to Saenz's participation in her two children's school work and athletics.

Vernon Warren, whose home was the scene of the domestic disturbance calls to police, said Saenz remained welcome there. Warren said he was dating Saenz's mother-in-law at the time of the incidents.

Other witnesses called on behalf of Saenz described how she attended church and continued to be active with her daughter, a fifth-grader, even after she was indicted on the murder charges.

Scott Bailey, her daughter's softball coach, said she attended baseball practices and "never had any concerns at all" about her presence around his daughter and other girls on the team.

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. Bleach is a commonly used disinfectant at the clinic.

Saenz would be the 10th woman among about 300 prisoners on Texas death row if jurors decide she should be put to death. Since the Civil War, three women have been executed in Texas, all since 1998.

Associated Press
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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