A decision is expected next week after the latest parole hearing for Genene Jones, the homicidal nurse suspected of killing dozens of infants in Central Texas more than thirty years ago.
The convicted killer whose crimes earned her the nickname "Angel of Death" was sentenced to 99 years in prison after a 1984 trial for killing a 15-month-old girl. Prosecutors believe she may have been responsible for the deaths of more than 40 babies at hospitals where she worked in Kerrville and San Antonio.
The mother of the only victim Jones was convicted of killing testified by speakerphone at the closed door hearing, said Andy Kahan, the City of Houston victim rights advocate, who appeared at the hearing in Angleton.
Under state law, Jones has been routinely considered for parole and even crime victim advocates believe her latest request will be denied. But the hearing has brought new focus on a prospect victims' families find appalling: Under mandatory release laws in effect during the era of her conviction, one of the most notorious serial killers in Texas history is scheduled to go free in early 2018.
"The reality is that if she will be released, she'll have served less than one year for every baby she is credited with killing," said Kahan. "That's unheard of."
Her crimes were widely publicized decades ago and they've since inspired books, movies and a number of true crime documentaries highlighting her case. Stephen King fans see similarities between Jones and the fictional killer nurse in the horror novel "Misery."
Jones now lives in the prison hospital at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, which suggests she's undergoing treatment for an undisclosed ailment. Under the old mandatory release law, which has since been repealed, she has amassed two days of credit for every day of good behavior behind bars.
The district attorney's office in Bexar County has launched a cold case effort to find another victim and convict Jones in another killing. Dozens of mothers and fathers have come forward in recent months, Kahan said, believing Jones may have been responsible for the deaths of their infant children.
The strategy may seem like a longshot, but it kept another Texas serial killer behind bars in a similar case. Coral Eugene Watts, who murdered more than a dozen women during the early 1980's, was scheduled for release in 2006. But an eyewitness who saw a television story about his impending release contacted prosecutors in Michigan, where Watts lived before moving to Houston, and gave crucial testimony that helped convict the serial killer in another murder.
Jones' sentence was the maximum allowable under Texas law at the time of her conviction. State legislators have since changed the law to allow for execution of serial killers.