Witness describes Yahoo! search for 'bleach poisoning'

Source: Angelina County Jail.
Source: Angelina County Jail.

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The tenth day of a capital murder trial of a former dialysis nurse began with a company supervisor back on the stand.

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

The state called upon Amy Clinton as their first witness this morning. Clinton has already testified in this trial. In her previous testimony, she said she sent Saenz home on April 28.

Friday, Clinton said she asked May Williams and another biomed for screwdrivers to pry the sharps container lids open of the two sharps containers found.

District Attorney Clyde Herrington asked Clinton why she took a syringe apart when she took it out of the sharps container.

"When I tested one syringe, it tested positive for bleach, which was unusual," said Clinton.

"Do you know whether or not you put it back together," said Herrington.

"I did not put it back together," said Clinton.

Clinton testified that May Williams did not touch any of the sharps containers, to her knowledge, after they were tested.

"Nothing was ever tampered with," said Clinton.

"Were you or others destroying a large number of documents at the end of April 2008," asked Deaton.

"No sir," replied Clinton.

Deaton asked Clinton if she told Andy Elliot that she put one or both of the sharps containers back on the floor. Clinton testified that the containers that were sequestered were not placed back on the floor. New sharps containers, Clinton says, were placed on the floor. Clinton stated May Williams placed the containers back in the clinic.

"No sir, she brought out new containers to the floor," said Clinton.

"In the sharps container I had, there were two that tested positive," said Clinton. "I was told by Giselle that she had two."

Clinton testified that she did not, nor anyone else, test all of the syringes in the sharps container she tested. Clinton said when two syringes tested positive, she put the container back together and left it aside for the police. She also told jurors she did not remember how full the contents of the container were.

The state called upon Mario Maurez as their next witness. Maurez told jurors he's a computer forensics investigator, who works out of California. He says he has a certificate from Federal Law Enforcement and is trained in analyzing and investigating seized computers.

"Computer forensics is a process for handling digital evidence," said the witness.

The defense objected, and both councils met with the judge in an inaudible conversation.

Herrington then called upon Sgt. Abbott to take the witness stand. He questioned him about taking the computers into his possession for investigation.

The witness described what he took as investigation.

"It was two Dell Laptops, and a HP and something else," said Abbott.

The defense asked Abbott about the location of these seized computers.

Abbott was then dismissed from the stand and Maurez was called back.

"I work for the US Health and Human Services," said Maurez. He explained that his office assists criminal investigators, and that's how he became involved with the Saenz case.

The witness explained to jurors the processes he took in getting in contact with the Lufkin Police Department and getting the hard drives necessary to investigate.

In his investigation, the witness says his software will lay out computer files in chronological order. He also explained that deleted files can still show up on the hard drive.

"It's still there," said Maurez.

The prosecution asked the witness if he found anything on the computer that indicated that Saenz used it.

"Yes I did," said the witness.

He said in the documents folder, he found a tax return that had Saenz's name. He said it was an index file that said at 9:14 UTC, or 4:14 am in Lufkin, there was a yahoo search for bleach poisoning on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008.

"You can see query equals bleach given dialysis right there," said the witness.

Maurez said the result of the search yielded a Heathline.com website with a path that led to a chlorine poisoning kit.

Deaton questioned the witness about the items the article addressed. Deaton said the website talked about prognosis and symptoms of chlorine poisoning.

"Furthermore, she went to work that morning, correct?" said Deaton.

Deaton then went on to reference Saenz's timesheet from that morning.

"Were you informed that she was at work some 20 minutes after those searches were done?" said Deaton.

"You can't even say who did the search," said Deaton.

"No I can't," said the witness.

Deaton asked where the witness found the files, questioning if they were deleted.

"They were not deleted, they were stored in the temporary internet files for the owner," said the witness.

Deaton argued that if someone was trying to hide their activity, it was easier to delete internet files than to store them in temporary folders.

"There weren't any searches on April the 2 on how to hurt anybody?" said Deaton.

"No," said the witness.

In his argument, Deaton states that Saenz could have been searching for information on the accusations brought up against her.

"And that's not abnormal," said Deaton. "Any of us that are curious about these issues will get on the internet and look things up."

With no further questions, the witness was dismissed.

Prosecution called upon Dr. Michael Schwartz as the next witness. Schwartz testified that he's a toxicologist and works for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) out of Atlanta. Schwartz also works for the Surgeon General's Corps.

Schwartz is listed as an expert witness in this case. He's currently working on a thesis on the effects of anti-freeze poisoning on humans.

Schwartz used a demonstration to describe to jurors what injected sodium hydrochloride does to the body when it gets inside.

"It actually disturbs the heart rhythm," said Schwartz.

The prosecution then turned to asking the witness about the conditions of Thelma Metcalf, a victim listed on the indictment. He said her blood pressure appeared normal, when first documented at 12:04 p.m.

"Thirty-one minutes later, her blood pressure has fallen significantly," said Schwartz. "Something significant caused her blood pressure to fall quickly without any changes to blood flow rate."

The prosecution asked if a nurse was in the area at the time.

"Ms. Saenz," said Schwartz.

After her blood pressure further dropped, the witness says charts show heparin was given to Metcalf twice.

"I don't think that would be the first task you would perform if you found someone pulse less and not breathing," said Schwartz.

Schwartz next addressed Marie Bradley's charting showing that her blood pressure dropped significantly in 35 minutes.

The prosecution then turned to looking at Debra Oates' chart records. In a half hour, her blood pressure also dropped significantly. This was also the case for Marva Rhone's charting.

"I reviewed an autopsy on Cora Bryant and Garlin Kelley," said Schwartz.

Schwartz said that he found the autopsies to be uninformative. The autopsies weren't able to effectively explain what Schwartz says his research on the effects of sodium hydrochloride have taught him.

"Epinephrine was given to all the cardiac arrest victims between the time they were at the Lufkin Davita Clinic and the time they got to the emergency room," said Schwartz.

Schwartz said these epinephrine were meant to restart patients' hearts, but perhaps had an adverse effect because of the presence of sodium hydrochloride.

Schwartz talked about the way bleach probably came into contact with patients.

"It went into the dialysis bath, it didn't go into the bloodstream of the patients," said Schwartz.

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