Former co-worker describes attitude of capital murder suspect - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Former co-worker describes attitude of capital murder suspect


Testimony in the trial of a former dialysis nurse accused of killing five patients began Tuesday morning with another former DaVita nurse 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.

Candace Lackey told the jury that she worked for DaVita as a nurse, during the time of incidents in April 2008. She testified that she started working as a nurse at Woodland Heights.

"It was a time of confusion, great anxiety," said the witness. "It seemed like we couldn't figure out why it was happening."

District Attorney Clyde Herrington then asked the witness about labeling of syringes. He asked the proper procedure for disposing of needles after using them to administer medicine. He asked if needles are re-capped after use.

"That is considered dangerous. You can accidentally stick yourself with a contaminated needle," said Lackey.

Herrington questioned the witness why the presence of bleach would be in a sharps container. Previous testimony says needles inside the container tested positive for bleach.

"There really wouldn't be any reason for bleach in a sharps container," said Lackey.

The prosecution then turned to ask about Saenz's behavior in the workplace.

"Did she [Saenz] like her job?" said Herrington.

The witness revealed that she did not get the impression that Saenz truly enjoyed her job. She said that Saenz had a group of patients she did not like. Lackey also mentioned that there were plenty of nurses who did not like certain patients.

"She would not come in with a smile when we would be laughing and joking and getting ready for the day," said Lackey.

The witness testified that Saenz was hired just a couple weeks before she was hired.

"I know at one point that she was going to resign and then changed her mind," said Lackey.

The defense argued that working in dialysis is not for everyone. He pointed out that Lackey, herself, also left the practice of dialysis. Saenz's attorney, Ryan Deaton asked why the witness quit DaVita. Lackey replied that it was not only the deaths during April, but it was also the large number of illnesses that occurred at the clinic.

"Honestly, I can't remember how many people became sick because it became a blur," said Lackey.

Deaton asked the witness was it solely the incidents in April 2008 that led her to quit her job in August 2008.

"There were other factors," said Lackey. "I felt so much anxiety because I could not reconcile what had happened. I felt like I had no control in that area. And, I felt like it might affect my performance."

She testified that other patients got sick in April, other than just those listed on the indictment.

Deaton called Victoria Gartman as the next witness. She testified that she was a facility administrator at Nacogdoches Dialysis. Deaton asked the witness if she knew Sharon Smith.

"She [Sharon Smith] had difficulty at times," said the witness.

With an objection from the prosecution and no further questions, the witness was dismissed.

The defense called upon the next witness, who testified to being a friend of Sharon Smith, to the stand.

Deaton asked the witness her opinion of Smith before both counsels dismissed her from the stand.

Next, the defense called upon Sharon Smith.

"Do you remember telling Kim Saenz to give medications to Opal Few?" said Deaton.

The witness recalled asking Saenz if she was giving Few medications, and Smith said Saenz said she was giving the patient her medicine.

"What did you do after Ms. Few coded?" said Deaton.

The witness replied that she followed the clinic's CPR protocol and called the medical director.

With no questions from the prosecution, Smith was dismissed from the stand.

The defense called upon Danielle Hartsville, who testified that she was newly employed at the Lufkin DaVita Clinic in April 2008. She said she was hired in December, following her graduation.

Deaton asked the witness to time out and describe her schedule on April 26, 2008. The witness recalled she was missing a patient that day, one did not come in. So, she says she called in Opal Few.

"Was that something that the patients liked if they could get on early?"

The witness replied that some patients did and some didn't like getting their dialysis treatment earlier rather than later.

"When you get meds, do they come with stickers?" said Deaton.

"They come with pre-printed labels," said the witness.

The witness testified that she gathered medicine that's labeled at the nurse's station. After gathering medicine, she said she saw Few's machine was going off and she appeared sick.

"Did you see Kim that morning?" said Deaton.

"No," said the witness.

"Did you Kim giving her meds?"

"No," said the witness.

The witness testified that she called for a supervisor, but she was not sure who called the ambulance.

Deaton pulled out a chart of the clinic's layout and had the witness to identify where patients sat in her area, particularly Few.

The defense called upon Martha Mann as their next witness. She was a patient care tech for 16 months at DaVita in Lufkin.

She told jurors she "always worked in a position that helps people" is part of the reason she chose to work at DaVita. She also stated her dad was on dialysis.

"Were you familiar with Kim Saenz?" said Deaton.

"Yes," said the witness.

Deaton asked the witness what she remembered of April 22, 2008, mentioning Cora Bryant.

"She [Bryant] had a rough treatment. She was having difficulties with her dialyzer clogging," said Mann.

Mann said this was not the first time Bryant had troubles during dialysis treatment.

When the machine's alarm, where Bryant was receiving treatment, sounded, Mann testifies that Candace Lackey responded. Mann said Saenz walked by to see if she could help, but she appeared to have stopped and looked into the computers before walking by again.

"Kim came through there, but I didn't see her do anything to the machine," said Mann.

The witness says she did not know what Saenz was looking at on the computer, but says she didn't touch Bryant's machine.

"In my peripheral, watching those patients, if she had done anything, I would've seen it," said Mann.

Herrington then reviewed, along with the witness, charting done on the treatment of Bryant. The prosecution also had the witness to review her police statement.

Herrington also asked the witness about the type of dialyzer used in Ms. Bryant's treatment. Reading from a document which listed the information, Mann said Bryant had a single-use dialyzer.

The defense asked the witness once again if she saw Saenz do anything. Mann replied she did not.

"I feel like if she had I would have seen her right there in close proximity," said Mann.

She also agreed that it would have been out of the ordinary for a nurse to inject anything into a patient that was not medicine.

Deaton called upon Marcia Garrett as the next witness. She's a current Administrative Assistant for DaVita Lufkin, testifying to have four years employment history. Garrett says she was a re-use tech and patient care tech in 2008.

Deaton questioned the witness about her activities on the floor on April 22, 2008.

"I don't recall," said Garrett.

Deaton brought up Bryant having health issues on that day. Garrett said she vaguely remembered that. The witness is charted to having dealt with Bryant's treatment on the 22.

"I was giving Ms. Mann a lunch break," said the witness.

The witness said she could not recall if she saw Saenz that day.

The defense called upon Dale Sockwell as the next witness. He testified that he is an RN for DaVita Dialysis. He is a charge nurse for the clinic, and says he's been employed with DaVita for 5 years now.

"Were you working the day Ms. Metcalf coded?" said Deaton.

"Yes," said the witness.

He said Candace Lackey was administering CPR to Metcalf. The witness recalled Saenz being around that day, but he did not remember what she was doing at the time.

The defense asked the witness about his routine that morning. Deaton also asked about the treatment sheets and the medication labels the clinic used. The witness testified that charge nurses put a label on the medications.

On April 28, the witness said Risinger was his first patient. He testified that she was complaining of being a little warm. However, he said her blood pressure was normal when he checked it.

Although she may have been feeling a little hypertensive, Sockwell testified he continued to administer the patient's medicine, Epogen, and flushed extra saline through her line.

The witness testified when Risinger and Rhone became ill, he never saw Saenz near them.

Deaton asked the witness about staying with the patient when giving treatment, like with Risinger.

"Normally when you give saline it takes a little while for the patient to begin feeling better, especially if it is a blood pressure issue," said the witness.

The witness testified that if anything out of the ordinary had occurred that day with patient medications, he would have known.

"I was the only med nurse that day so anything injected by a needle or syringe would have caught my attention," said the witness.

The witness stated that most of the time medicines for patients were all drawn together. He said each patient's medicine was normally kept near them.

"Usually you put it [the medicine] in a baggie with the patient's name on it and you hang it on the IV pole," said the witness.

Deaton asked the witness about leaving the area nearest Ms. Rhone and Ms. Risinger, during the time of their adverse occurrences. Deaton also asked the witness when he picked up the sharps container by Rhone. He asked if it was before or after Ms. Rhone having problems.

"It was after," said the witness.

Deaton then pointed out to the witness that he told Sgt. Abbott of the Lufkin Police Department that he claimed to pick the container up before Rhone began having problems. The witness agreed that his memory of the events was better in 2008.

Deaton then questioned the witness about being directed to picking up Rhone's sharps container while she was having an episode.

"Did you find it odd that the sharps container would be picked up before you checked on Ms. Rhone?" said the witness.

The witness said Sandy Lawrence was treating Rhone as he picked up the container, insisting the patient was not alone.

The witness testified that he could not recall who exactly stripped the bloodlines off of Rhone's machine. Deaton pointed out that Sockwell told Abbott that he stripped the machines himself.

"Do you know why Ms. Risinger's bloodlines were not saved?" said Deaton.

"No, I do not," said the witness.

Deaton asked where Ms. Risinger's bloodlines went after her episode.

"They were probably in a red biohazard bag in a trash can," said the witness.

Other than the fact that April 28, 2008, was an off day that he was called in to work, the witness said that day was like any other day.

"Does bleach ever get into the sharps containers?" said Deaton.

"I don't see how it would," said the witness.

Deaton pointed out that in his statement given to police, Sockwell said, "I'm not saying that bleach doesn't get into the sharps containers".

Deaton played the police interview back for the witness to hear his original statement to police.

The defense questioned the witness about a chlorine breakthrough at the clinic, to which the witness recalled he did not know.

The witness testified that Ms. Rhone was in a car accident not too long before her episode at the clinic, and the witness said she claimed to have some bruised ribs. He said it was not uncommon for her to feel ill or nauseous because, he says, dialysis tends to give that effect to some patients. The witness also said Risinger complained of chest pain, but that was not uncommon either.

In cross-examination, Herrington addressed Deaton previously pointing out the witness' statement about bleach in sharps containers.

"Do you know of any reason bleach could get into a sharps container?"

The witness replied that he could not think of a reason for that.

"What do you put in sharps containers?" said Herrington.

"Needles, syringes, and medication bottles that you might have chair side," said the witness.

Herrington also pointed out that in an interview, Sockwell did not mention picking up Ms. Rhone's sharps containers until after she was sick. Herrington concluded that the witness picked up the container after the episode.

The prosecution asked the witness about dispensing medication to witnesses.

"Occasionally does someone mess up and have to print another?" said Herrington.

"It depends," said the witness.

Sockwell agreed that a new label could be printed. But, if it's just a change in date or time, a line could be drawn and the information written over the mistake.

Herrington asked the witness if an employee is busy taking care of a patient or drawing medicine, would they be able to account for all events taking place.

"Are you going to be seeing what's going on all around?" said Herrington.

"No sir," said the witness.

Herrington and Sockwell agreed dialysis employees work long shifts, and employees rotate as each one takes different breaks.

The prosecution asked the witness about checking the water at the clinic. Sockwell testified he was involved in testing the clinic's water.

"Check the water every four hours before the next patient shift comes on," said the witness.

Sockwell explained to the jury the full process of checking the water.

"The chlorine is checked every 30 minutes," said the witness.

After the water is checked, the witness said it has to be logged.

The defense then called upon Nick Luker, a dialysis biomed. He stated he was never a dialysis nurse, testifying to working at DaVita for 8 of his 23 years of working in dialysis.

Deaton asked the witness about training necessary to become a biomed.

The witness explained conditions at the Lufkin DaVita facility in 2008.

"We were typically short-handed," said Luker.

He said this became a concern to the clinic and patients, stating employees' days were long. After months of long-hours, employees were sent to the Lufkin clinic, from Houston, the witness said.

Copyright 2012 KTRE. All rights reserved.

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