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2013-09-19

Local survived 80s serial killer attack

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Luis Castillo, 31, died on the day he was born. The Bandera native was the victim of convicted serial killer Genene Jones.

"I was flown from Kerrville to Methodist Hospital in San Antonio," said Castillo. There, the seriously ill baby was kept in the neo-natal intensive care unit for a year. "My daddy came down to visit me and my mother stayed right there by me," said Castillo. "My mother became pregnant with my sister during that time and went into labor when she was with me. They had all that to deal with."

Jones, a licensed vocational nurse, was convicted of murdering another baby, Chelsea McClellan, in 1984 and has been in the State Penitentiary system ever since, serving a 99-year sentence. However, due to an early release law in place when Jones was sent to prison, she is eligible for parole in four years.

It's an irony that Texas, the state that prides itself on its record of carrying out death penalty sentences, "will have the honor of being the first state to release a serial killer in the US," said Detective Andy Kahan an advocate with the Houston Mayor's Crime Victim's office. Kahan is working with Petti McClellan, Chelsea's mother, in an attempt to find "another family that was a victim of Genene Jones."

Unbelievably, in order to keep her in prison, prosecutors will need to convict Jones of another murder. She was suspected in anywhere from 11 to 46 cases.

Meanwhile, here in Bandera County, Castillo lives with the aftermath of Jones' diabolical actions. He has struggled with numerous health problems all of his life, but "in 2007, I got really sick. I had a really bad asthma attack and my lungs started failing." Up until that time, Castillo had worked as an electrician and AC man. But it was hard to keep a job because of his numerous hospital stays.

Today, he is on oxygen 24/7. He has been diagnosed with COPD, asthma, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary hypertension, congestive heart failure, cystic fibrosis and stage two lung cancer.

His doctors have advised him that a double lung transplant could significantly prolong his life. Unfortunately, Castillo will have to go to Houston for the surgery. The day I spoke with him, he and his wife, Amanda, had been looking for an apartment in Houston. "The apartments are so expensive there. I live on Social Security Disability and we can't afford $1300 a month," he said. Castillo also has three children, girls ages 11, six and two. "They're Daddy's Girls," he said proudly.

Amanda stays at home to take care of her husband. "She watches over me."
Castillo regrets that his infant medical records have apparently been destroyed, so he has no way of proving that he was injected with the same toxic substances Jones used on her other tiny victims. "But I have the same side effects as other victims," he said.

As to his feelings toward Jones and the awful possibility that she might be released in four years, Castillo said, "I don't feel scared of her.

There's nothing she can do to me."

Benefit planned

Friend and neighbor Shellie Keepers has been organizing fundraisers for Castillo, to help him and his family get to Houston for treatment and to help with personal bills. A benefit bingo will be held Sunday, Sept. 29, at the Bandera Legion Post 157 and donations may also be deposited in the Luis Castillo Benefit Account at Bandera Bank.

"Luis is a shy, sweet person," said Keepers. "He worked until he couldn't and now he is usually too sick to leave the house."

Kahan, the victim advocate with the Houston mayor's office, has been working with Petti McClellan for 13 to 14 years. "Unless we come up with another case to convict her on, Jones will be released in four years," said Kahan.

The Houston officer played a significant role in the re-conviction of another serial killer, Carl "Coral" Eugene Watts, who was sentenced in 1982 for 60 years in Texas State prison and, like Jones, qualified for early release due to good behavior points. "We were two years in and got another case to convict him on and keep him in prison," said Kahan. "We're hoping lightning strikes twice."

Watts was convicted in Michigan in 2007 and given two life sentences. He died in prison in that state.

According to Kahan, Jones was suspect in over 40 cases. "She was tried on the McClellan case because that was the one case that had the most sufficient evidence at the time."

Not anticipating the early release law to come back and bite them 30 years later, prosecutors apparently saw no need to convict her on any other cases.

Kahan has no love for Jones. "She's the most devious serial killer I've known," he said. "She was so diabolical. Her victims were the most innocent; they absolutely could not fight back."

Families were devastated by Jones' trail of death. "It happened with someone they trusted, a medical professional," said Kahan.

While four years might seem like a long time to most of us, Kahan says "timing is everything. In cases like this, four years is a blip on the radar screen to accomplish what we want to accomplish."

Kahan and McClellan are working hard to find victims' families to develop a new case against Jones. If you are the family of one of Jones' victims, email Kahan at

andy.kahan@houston.tx.gov.

The Texas early release law has since been abolished. Unfortunately, under the Texas Constitution, the abolition can't be applied retroactively.

Genene Jones rampage

In 1981 Genene Jones was working at Bexar County Hospital on the 3-11 shift on the pediatric intensive care unit. Other nurses began to suspect that too many children were dying on Jones' shift, which they began to refer to as the Death Shift.

According to a Texas Monthly story by Peter Elkind published in August of 1983, several investigations were begun, but by the time the report was written on the last of the hospital's internal inquiries, Jones, an LVN, had left the hospital.

"The report concludes, 'This association of Nurse Jones with the deaths of the ten children could be coincidental. However, negligence or wrongdoing cannot be excluded,'" said Elkind.

Fearing lawsuits, the hospital was "unwilling to fire Jones, unwilling to call the police or tip off the district attorney," Elkind concluded.

Instead, administrators removed all LVNs from the unit, and gave them "good recommendations and offers of jobs in other parts of the hospital." Jones quit working at the hospital in March of 1982. "The unexplained events stopped," said Elkind.

Jones then went to work for a Kerrville pediatrician, Dr. Kathleen Holland. "In a period of 31 days, seven of Holland's patients had eight separate medical emergencies" and 15-month-old Chelsea McClellan died, the Texas Monthly article said.

Jones was convicted of murder by lethal injection in 1984 in a trial directed by Kerr County DA Ron Sutton. She was sentenced to 99 years. She was also convicted of injuring a child in another attack and was sentenced 60 years on that charge, to be served concurrently with the 99 year sentence.

Jones was suspected of injecting children under her care with digoxin, heparin and succinylcholine. Digoxin, derived from the leaves of the digitalis plant, is used to treat heart failure and atrial fibrillation. An overdose is fatal.

Heparin is a blood thinner. An overdose can lead to unusual bleeding. Succinylcholine is a muscle relaxant and an overdose can lead to cardiac arrest.

It is theorized that Jones may have derived pleasure from the excitement of creating a medical emergency and then working hard to resolve the crisis. "She wanted to be a hero," Castillo said. "She wanted to look like she was saving the babies."

Jones, 63, is now scheduled to be released in February of 2018 under a Texas law called Mandatory Supervision. The law, passed in 1977, allowed all convicted criminals to be automatically released on parole after they served a certain amount of calendar time and good conduct time. The law has since been repealed, but is still in effect for criminals sentenced during the time it was active.


Pictured: Luis Castillo & a friend.