Almost four years to the day that former nurse Kimberly Saenz began injecting DaVita Dialysis patients with bleach, an Angelina County jury labeled her a serial killer.
Following four weeks of testimony and 14 hours of deliberation, the verdict was read by state district Judge Barry Bryan around 5:20 p.m. Friday as Saenz, 38 of Pollok, stood beside her defense attorney, Ryan Deaton. Bryan began with the first five counts of aggravated assault pertaining to patients who survived having their dialysis lines injected with bleach in April 2008. She was found guilty on three of those charges for the aggravated assaults of Marva Rhone, Carolyn Risinger and Marie Bradley. She was found not guilty in the alleged attacks of Debra Oates and Graciela Castenada.
Bryan then announced her guilty of capital murder in count six of the indictment, meaning jurors believe she killed at least two of the alleged murder victims — Clara Strange, Thelma Metcalf, Garlin Kelley, Cora Bryant and Opal Few.
With the verdict read, Saenz gasped, and her father, sitting on the front row, buried his face in his hands. A mixture of emotions flooded the courtroom — tears of relief from victims and their families and tears of sadness from Saenz and her family. Visibly shaken, Saenz dabbed her eyes with a tissue before officers placed her in handcuffs and led her out the door.
After Saenz’s family left the courtroom, victims and their families lined up to shake District Attorney Clyde Herrington’s hand, thanking him for bringing their loved ones justice. There was also an emotional moment between Herrington and Lufkin Police Detective Stephen Abbott as the two men momentarily embraced, Abbott in tears. He was the lead detective on the murder case.
Because surviving bleach attack victim Marie Bradley doesn’t remember anything about the day she was attacked four years ago, she said hearing the verdict gave her the confirmation she has been seeking.
“I’ve just been in limbo, hoping and praying they would get on with it. If I had been one of the ones they found her not guilty of, I don’t know how I would do,” Bradley said, shaking her head. “This gives me relief and a sense of closure.”
The granddaughter of murder victim Clara Strange said sitting through the trial has been like reliving her grandmother’s death every day for a month. As for Saenz’s possible sentence of lethal injection, Marisa Fernandez said it echoes the old adage “an eye for an eye.”
“It’s like (my grandmother) continues to die over and over with everything that happened,” Fernandez said, wiping tears from her eyes. “I just think it’s very ironic that she’s possibly going to get lethal injection with the way everything played out.”
While murder victim Cora Bryant’s daughter said she doesn’t believe in the death penalty, she’s turning it over to a higher power.
“I don’t believe in the death penalty, but God said vengeance is his. If that’s what he decides should happen, it will,” Carla Mott said. “Right now we’re just thanking God for victory.”
Since being charged in May 2008, Saenz has spent no more than nine days in jail after posting a $300,000 bond. She will now spend the weekend there awaiting a punishment phase set to start at 9 a.m. Monday.
At that time, jurors will hear more testimony before determining if she will die by lethal injection or spend the rest of her life in prison.
Herrington and Deaton declined comment on the case until after Saenz has been sentenced.