Defense takes its turn in bleaching deaths trial - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Defense takes its turn in bleaching deaths trial

Kimberly Saenz. Source: Angelina County Jail. Kimberly Saenz. Source: Angelina County Jail.

Day 11 of the capital murder trial involving a former dialysis nurse began Monday with the defense calling its first witness.

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.

Ryan Deaton, called upon Jim Risinger, the husband of a victim, Carolyn Risinger.

Risinger testified that his wife died Oct. 4, 2010. He said they were together 51 years. The witness told jurors that his wife died on impact in a car accident, when he lost control of the car.

"She died that morning, on the way to dialysis," said Risinger.

At the time, she was a dialysis patient in Nacogdoches, he said.

Deaton asked the witness what he recalled about his wife's treatment at DaVita, the morning of April 28, 2008.

"I remember that morning real well," said Risinger.

Risinger said that every morning he would take his wife in to dialysis and take her shoes off, making sure she was comfortable before he left until she was ready to be picked up. When he got there on April 28, he said there was a tech he did not like tending to his wife. He said he told Amy Clinton, who previously testified in the trial, that he did not want that tech to tend to his wife.

Deaton asked Risinger if he was called to pick up his wife or told that his wife wasn't feeling well when he went to pick her up. Risinger said he could tell his wife was sick when he got back to the clinic.

"Nobody from DaVita came and said one word to me," said Risinger.

Deaton asked the witness if he recalled which nurse came in contact with his wife. Risinger replied he did not. Deaton asked the witness if he remembered Saenz being around his wife. Risinger told jurors she was not around.

District Attorney Clyde Herrington asked the witness about documents the clinic may have asked him or his wife to sign.

"I didn't go to the emergency room that morning. They never asked me about the emergency room or anything else," said Risinger.

After a few more brief questions, both counsels passed the witness.

Deaton next called upon Gayle Owens, a dialysis patient, who received treatment from Davita during incidents at the clinic.

Owens testified that she sat by Hall and Hamilton when she was receiving treatment on April 28, 2008.

"Did you see Kim Saenz do anything out of the ordinary?" said Deaton.

"No," said Owens.

"How was Ms. Saenz acting that day?" said Deaton.

"She was acting like she always did, very quiet, very professional," said Owens.

Deaton pulled out a layout of the clinic and had the witness point out to jurors where she was sitting and where the nurse's station was located. Deaton questioned the witness about her vantage point.

Owens testified that she did not hear conversation between Hall and Hamilton at anytime on April 28.

The witness told the jury that she still currently goes to DaVita for dialysis treatment.

Herrington cross-examined a nurse at DaVita at the time Saenz was employed there.

Herrington asked her when she would use the bleach solution. She said she'd use it to clean up the chair a patient had sat in, as well as the machine after use.

She said she would ring out the towelette so that the area wouldn't be sopping wet, but confirmed that she didn't even use bleach until the patient was gone.

"How many times did you use the same towelette?" asked Herrington.

"We never reused them. We had to get a new one," said the witness, who said she cared for Risinger often.

Herrington showed the witness her dialysis record of April 28, 2008, to confirm her data was correct.

Deaton then asked her about properly clamping the saline line, and if a nurse ever went against regulations and procedure.

"If the patient was feeling ill or uncomfortable, then I would unclamp the saline line just a little," said the witness.

Deaton asked the witness if she would notice if someone was standing with her patients for a minute at a time, since she said she was always of walking distance to her patients. Deaton asked if something like that would divert her attention. Deaton asked the same question three or four different ways until Herrington objected and the judge sustained, telling Deaton to ask the question one last time in one way.

Deaton held up a display, showing the clinic's set up of patients. He pointed to where Risinger had been and where the witness was and then showed where Saenz's patients were -- on the opposite side of the clinic.

Referring back to April 7, Deaton began asking the witness if she knew a Maria Lopez, but was interrupted by Herrington's objection. Deaton asked if test strips were always accurate  and if the witness ever remembered a situation when it hadn't been accurate.

But the judge and both counsels then met at an opposite side of the jury to discuss something, that was inaudible, of course.

After a few minutes, both counsels sat and Deaton asked the question again. The witness said they had always been accurate and that she didn't know the difference of each testing strip. One was used for water and one was used for bleach, she said.

Deaton called his next witness, Gisella Frenet.

She stated that she was a Davita RN since 1997 and she had been at the Lufkin clinic to monitor.

"How many times in the month of April did you go to DaVita to monitor?" asked Deaton.

"Twice," she said. "April 28 to monitor the floor and the other time I do not remember the exact date: either April 23 or 24."

Frenet said one of the team members she was asked to monitor was Saenz.

She couldn't recall to Deaton how many patients were there at that time.

Deaton brought the display of the clinic set up to Frenet, asking her specific questions about which patients had she tended to, how many monitors were there.

He asked if each group of four patients had a personal caretaker, to which she replied they did.

She confirmed that they all had a medication nurse as well.

He showed her Risinger's chart that day, around 8:19 a.m. He asked if anybody was monitoring the medication nurse and she couldn't recall. 

"So you were on the floor until 8:30?" asked Deaton.

Deaton asked if the other nurse had been present and the witness said she remembered seeing her that day.

Deaton asked the witness if she had remembered monitoring Saenz and other PCT's and other LVNs on the floor, as she had been specific back in May 2008, saying she had monitored Saenz.

Deaton asked the witness if she had noticed anything weird or out of the norm occur that day.

Deaton asked her that if she wasn't on the floor after 8:30 a.m., how could she monitor Saenz on the floor. She replied that she had monitored the nurses before 8:30 a.m. After that time, someone else was monitoring  for a while. She was sent back to the floor a short time later.

Deaton brought the display again, to demonstrate the way the clinic is set up, and pointing at patients that Frenet was observing.

The display showed a 25-minute gap for Frenet, to which she said she was watching the medication nurse.

Jimmy Grimer was called to the stand next, telling jurors he is a dialysis patient. He testified that he was a DaVita patient in 2008.

Deaton asked the witness what he remembered about April 28th, 2008.

"They had moved all the patients around on our seating area," said the witness.

Deaton used a drawing to have the patient identify where he was sitting.

"I was one chair away from Ms. Rhone," said the witness.

Grimer testified that he did not watch TV or sleep during treatment. He said he could see Mrs. Risinger's treatment.

"I felt like I was a friend to her and I would take care of her," said the witness. "And she would get sick and wouldn't tell nobody."

He testified that she and he would go onto the dialysis machines at about the same time. That morning, he did not see Saenz, he told jurors. Ordinarily, he states he also did not see Saenz.

"What did you see with regards to Ms. Risinger," asked Deaton.

"She got sick. It just didn't look right, she got sick," said the witness.

The witness testified that Risinger's sick episodes typically lasted 5 or 10 minutes, and then she would be okay.

"Right before Ms. Risinger got sick Ms. Rhone got sick," said the witness. "I heard her over there hollering that she didn't feel good."

The witness said that Ms. Rhone was sick during most of her dialysis treatments.

"Were you talked to any police about this?" said Deaton.

"No sir," said the witness. "Never."

Without any further questions, he was dismissed from the stand.

The defense then called Frenet, one of the nurses at the DaVita clinic back to the stand. She testified to testing the syringes ,found in the sharps containers, for bleach.

"So you did all the testing of the syringes?" said Deaton.

"I remember testing those four," replied the witness.

Deaton asked the witness about who she observed working at the clinic on April 28th, 2008. The witness listed several employees she watched.

Frenet testified to being the Director of Clinical Services in 2008 at the clinic.

"So your main job was training and working with facility directors, correct?" asked Herrington.

The witness replied she worked to get together teams to train and work with facility directors. Frenet told jurors she observed to see if employees were following company policies, and she watched the daily work. Frenet described that patients should always be kept calm, even if a problem arises.

"You shouldn't be panicking at any time," said Frenet.

Herrington then questioned the witness about Ms. Risinger when she had an episode on April 28th at the clinic.

"She was hot, she was restless. Her blood pressure was high," said Frenet.

Frenet recounted the story of her and other team members opening two sharps containers on the 28th and testing them. She said the containers were fairly empty, so it didn't take long to test the contents. She explained to jurors, the process of using test strips and the color revealing whether bleach is present or not.

When she tested the syringes, Frenet says she was shocked because she did not think she would find anything when she tested them.

Herrington asked the witness whether needles are capped or not when disposed in sharps containers.

"If you've used a needle, you're supposed to trash it. But, don't recap it. If you recap it, you may stick yourself," said Frenet.

Deaton asked the witness if the syringes she tested had needles on them.

"I didn't see a needle," said Frenet.

Deaton asked the witness why her testimony today differed from testimony she gave to police in 2008. He suggested that she was influenced to give certain answers.

The defense then called upon Sandra "Sandy" Lawrence as the next witness.

She testified that she works at the DaVita, Huntsville clinic. She was employed at the Lufkin clinic in 2008.

"My title then was the facility administrator," said Lawrence.

She says she changed clinic locations after the incidents in April, and she wanted to work closer to home.

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