Week 2 of testimony in trial of former DaVita nurse - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas


Week 2 of testimony in trial of former nurse accused of injecting dialysis patients with bleach

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) The sixth day of the capital murder trial of a former Lufkin Dialysis nurse accused of injecting bleach into patients began with a Lufkin Police officer describing what took place when he arrived on scene.

Kimberly Clark Saenz, 38, of Pollok, is charged with capital murder and five counts of aggravated assault. She is accused of injecting bleach into the bloodstream of kidney dialysis patients.

The state is pursuing the death penalty against Saenz.

Saenz was arrested in 2008, following a long investigation into five deaths at the DaVita Dialysis Clinic in Lufkin.

Five other patients were also seriously injured.

Investigators believe Saenz injected bleach into at least 10 patients' bloodstream while they were receiving dialysis.

Monday morning, prosecuting attorney, Clyde Herrington, called Sergeant Stephen Abbott, Criminal Investigations, Lufkin Police Department, as the first witness.

On the stand, the witness recalled the incidents that he remembers when he was called to the clinic. Abbott stated that at about 4:45 p.m., he was dispatched to what he thought was a possible tampering with medicine incident at the Lufkin DaVita Clinic on April 28th, 2008. Abbott said he arrived on the scene shortly after 5 p.m. and stayed until after 10.

The witness stated he and other police officers began investigation when they arrived on the scene. Abbott said DaVita officials gave them permission to take any evidence they needed.

"I discussed taking items from them and asked their consent to remove them," said the witness.

He said he took all bloodlines, heparin, two primary sharps containers, and additional sharps containers on the floor of the facility.

"It was all photographed and taken," said the witness. "We began collecting sharps containers about 8 o'clock."

Herrington asked Abbott about talking to employees on scene.

Abbott recalled talking to Yasmine Santana. He said she told him the facility ran out of measuring cups and she overheard another employee suggest using syringes.

Herrington asked the witness if he talked to Saenz the next day. Abbott said she did not come by the station, so that afternoon, officers rode by Saenz's home.

"We talked to her briefly there and we'd like to hear her version of what transpired the previous day," said Abbott.

Abbott said Saenz did agree, and later that day, she came by the station for an interview. Abbott recalled the interview becoming uninformative.

"We weren't able to keep her focused on the subject or gather any information from her, we decided to end the interview," said Abbott.

Herrington asked the witness to identify numerous photos of evidence taken from the scene. Abbott identified pictures of sharps containers and labeled syringes.

The witness testified to collecting bloodlines, sharps containers, syringes, and heparin, a medicine used in dialysis treatment.

Abbott said names and dates on the syringes stood out to him and were later listed as victims on the indictment.

Some of the bloodlines officers collected were unidentified, and the sergeant says they were later identified through DNA testing of victims' children conducted at the University of North Texas.  DNA testing helped to identify Opal Few and Thelma Metcalf. Their daughter's DNA was used to help identify their bloodlines.

Abbott also testified to arresting Saenz in May of 2008.

Saenz's attorney, Ryan Deaton, pointed out that arrest may have come prematurely.

Deaton asked Abbott if he had made up his mind that Saenz was guilty before seeing all of the evidence in the case.

Abbott argued that he had a sufficient basis to arrest her.

He said he took into account the evidence that he had at the moment.

Deaton argued that the arrest came before results from testing the clinic's water came back.

Deaton also argued that DaVita officials would not let police interview employees until 18 days after the initial investigation.

And, Abbott said the clinic was not avoiding police interviews. He claimed he didn't conduct the interviews immediately because he didn't request them immediately.

Of those labeled syringes, Abbott identified one as, "Marie Bradley, dated 4-23".

"We obtained a search warrant to search Saenz's residence and her parents' residence," said Abbott.

"And what was that search warrant for?" said Herrington.

"Computers," said Abbott.

Abbott said he sent the bloodlines and syringes to the FDA. He said he sent Ms. Rhone's among the first because they had witness testimony regarding her bloodline.  Ms. Few was another of the bloodlines sent out earlier.

Abbott said DNA testing done by the University of North Texas revealed one of the unidentified bloodlines, dated 4-16, belonged to Garlin Kelley. Also identified, Abbott said bloodlines were present belonging to Cora Bryant, Opal Few, whose lines were tested using her daughter, and Thelma Metcalf, whose lines were also tested using her daughter.

Herrington questioned Abbott about investigations done as to where each patient was seated in the clinic. Abbott said he did take measurements, but they are only approximate because the chairs are moveable at the clinic.

The defense objected to these measurements because Abbott has taken them in the last couple of weeks, as the prosecution requested.

"Is it your testimony today that those chairs, the same placement of those chairs, the same as it was April 28th, 2008?" said Deaton.

"No, it's approximate," said Abbott.

Deaton argued that this evidence should not be used because it's not exact and therefore not an accurate representation of seating arrangements that day.

Both councils, after a couple discussions with Judge Barry Bryan, came to the agreement that the measurements and pictures taken are not completely accurate but just serve as a representation. Herrington showed the jury pictures Sgt. Abbott and other police officers took, depicting patient positioning at the clinic.

Herrington later questioned Abbott about taking Ms. Hamilton and Ms. Hall's deposition statements.

The defense began questioning the witness by attempting to get an understanding of the placement of evidence at the clinic.

"Where exactly do you believe where Ms. Hall and Ms. Hamilton were seated?" said Deaton.

Sgt. Abbott pointed the seating out to Deaton on a large chart diagram.

Deaton then questioned Abbott about his findings of sharps containers by the patient chairs.

"All the stations had sharps containers," said Abbott.

Deaton then attempted to ask further questions about Abbott's investigation of the clinic, but Herrington objected. Herrington stated that the questions Deaton was seeking to ask were based off of "hear-say". Deaton re-directed his questioning to the events that occurred the night of the investigation.

"Ya'll got there about dark, is that right?" said Deaton.

"No sir, it's not," said Abbott.

Deaton then pointed out to the witness that he arrested Saenz in May, which was a month before water testing reports had come back. Deaton and Abbott agreed water records came back in June.

"You had made up your mind before you saw all the evidence in the case, right?" said Deaton.

"I took into account the evidence which I had available at my hands," said Abbott.

Deaton also pointed out that Abbott testified that Yasmine Santana did not mention Saenz was the one who talked about measuring bleach with syringes. Deaton said Santana had the opportunity to tell authorities, but she did not. Abbott agreed that Santana merely stated a "teammate" mentioned the idea.

Deaton asked the witness about not being able to speak with employees immediately when he asked to talk to them.

"Some 18 days later you were allowed to interview their employees?" said Deaton.

"No, that was the time I requested the interview," said Abbott.

Deaton questioned the witness about his interviews with 150 of DaVita's patients, following the incidents.

"How many people told you they bagged Ms. Rhone's bloodlines?" said Deaton.

"Two people," replied Abbott.

Deaton then questioned the witness about the oddity that two employees reported doing a one person job.

In further questioning, Deaton asked the witness why if the clinic stopped using re-used dialyzers that they had a room stocked with them.

The defense then passed the witness, who was dismissed from the stand in the interest of time.

Herrington said he would call upon him later, but he had to move forward with expert testimony from those out of town scheduled to testify today.

The next witness called to the stand testified he was a nephrologist, and he discussed how Ms. Rhone and Ms. Oates were in "above average health" prior to them going on dialysis.

Nephrology is the medical specialty which focuses on the treatment of kidney conditions and abnormalities. A nephrologist diagnoses causes and levels of kidney failure, and prescribe appropriate treatment such as medication, diet changes, or dialysis.

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