LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An Angelina County jury has handed down a life sentence for a former dialysis nurse who killed at least two patients by injecting their bloodstreams with bleach.
The life sentence for capital murder means Kimberly Clark Saenz, 38, will never be eligible for parole.
The jury also sentenced Saenz to three 20-year sentences on three counts of aggravated assault.
The jury found Saenz guilty Friday of capital murder and three counts of aggravated assault.
In Monday's sentencing phase of the trial, District Attorney Clyde Herrington called Bradley Baker, a Lufkin Police Officer for the past 13 years.
Baker told the jury that on April 29, 2008, around 8:30 p.m., he was called out to the home of Mark Kevin Saenz, Saenz's husband. They were having marital issues at the time.
"Ms. Saenz was banging on the door of the house," said Baker.
Upon arriving at the house, Baker said he issued a criminal trespass warrant against Saenz. He also noticed Saenz appeared to be intoxicated.
"Her eyes were glassy and she was having trouble answering questions," said Baker.
He said she admitted that she was taking Cymbalta, and she knew it could make her dizzy although she was driving that night. Baker then arrested Saenz, and she was fairly cooperative when she was arrested for public intoxication.
Herrington then called upon Lufkin Police Officer Sterling Glawson.
Glawson told jurors that he received a call about a disturbance in June 2007, which was a dispute between a husband and wife. When he arrived on the scene, Lawson said he was informed that the argument started at Saenz's home in Pollok. Mark Saenz left to go to his mother's boyfriend's home on Tulane Drive in Lufkin, and Saenz followed. Mark Saenz was injured, and Kim Saenz was arrested for assault family violence.
Herrington next called Sgt. Stephen Abbott of the Lufkin Police Department, who previously testified in the trial, to the stand.
Herrington presented a document to Abbott, which Abbott testified was an Emergency Magistrate's Protective Order, issued in June 2007. The prosecution also asked Abbott about another document, which he testified was an original petition for divorce, filed by Mark Saenz.
Records from Woodland Heights Medical Center revealed Saenz had taken and was using Demerol, which was located in her purse. The hospital threatened to suspend her medical license, which had not happened before April 2008.
The state then rested.
Defense attorney Steve Taylor called Vernon Dean Warren to the stand. He testified that he dated Mark Saenz's mother.
Taylor asked the witness about the night Saenz was banging on the door of his home. That night, he said he asked that a criminal trespass warning be issued.
"I was out of town and I received a call," said Warren.
Warren testified he has no ill feelings against Saenz, and that she is welcome to his home at anytime.
Peggy Wells took the stand next and testified she is a friend of Kim Saenz, knowing her for 33 years. Wells said she met Saenz in kindergarten.
Taylor asked Wells about Saenz not completing high school. Wells said Saenz dropped out her senior year.
"No," said Wells. "Because she had a child that summer, our junior summer."
Taylor asked the witness if he was afraid of Saenz after she got in trouble, following incidents at the DaVita Clinic.
"No," said Wells.
Wells also testified that she did not feel Saenz was a threat to her personally or her children.
Taylor called Wendy Bryan to the stand next, who testified she worked at Fleetwood Transportation. It was there at Fleetwood that the witness testified she met Kim Saenz. She said Saenz met her husband there as well. Bryan testified Saenz worked there for several years, and said Saenz was a good employee.
Taylor asked Wells about the allegations brought against Saenz in 2008. Wells said Saenz had a difficult time at that point, but her company would have provided her a job.
"I would have absolutely hired her. Absolutely, without a doubt," said Bryant.
The defense called upon Tonya Monlar, a past co-worker of Saenz at Fleetwood Transportation.
"She was a very hard worker, very thorough," said Monlar.
Monlar testified that she would keep in contact, when possible with Saenz, throughout her sentence.
"If I can visit, I'll visit. I'll write, and she's always in my prayers," said the witness.
Barbara Allen testified that she taught both Kim Saenz and her son. During Saenz's high school years, Allen recalls that Saenz played sports. Allen testified that she was Saenz's cheerleading coach. Saenz was also active in other sports.
"She played softball," said Allen.
The witness said she remembered when Saenz gave up her senior year of high school when she got pregnant and went through with having the baby.
During Allen's testimony, Saenz cried, as Allen complimented the "good" parenting job Saenz has done with her son.
Steve Taylor called Scott Bailey, an employee for Frito-Lay, to the stand.
Bailey testified that he asked Saenz's daughter to play softball on the same team as his daughter. He said Saenz was an active parent, "more active than most".
"Ms. Saenz was active at the practices. She was there," said Bailey.
Karen Schumaker, the elementary school principal of Central ISD for the past 11 years took the stand next. She recalled what she remembered of Saenz's parenting with her children. Schumaker testified that the daughter is now in the fifth grade at the elementary school in Central.
"When [he] was younger, he played baseball with my son. Kim was always there," said Schumaker.
Schumaker says she has been keeping an eye on the daughter at school to make sure the circumstances surrounding Saenz do not affect her.
"She's a great kid," said the witness.
Taylor called Kevin Poage, the pastor of Clawson Assembly of God to the stand as the next witness. Poage testified that Saenz is a member of his church, and he was aware of the allegations against her.
"We talked about this, and then you know we waited for this to come. We went ahead and proceeded as usual," said the witness.
Poage says he plans to continue supporting Saenz in any manner the church can.
Frank G. AuBuchon was called upon as the next witness. He said he retired from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Taylor questioned the witness about the rules of the criminal justice system. The defense asked the witness what life without parole means.
"It's a true life sentence," said AuBuchon. "Texas didn't have a true life sentence in 2005."
AuBuchon also described what title the offender sentenced to life holds and the type of housing the prisoners are be held in.
"These people will die in custody," said the witness.
Taylor had the witness go through the classifications of offenses committed by offenders in prison.
"You very quickly in prison the easiest way to do your time is to behave yourself. You get more privileges," said AuBuchon.
The defense asked the witness about the rules on receiving gifts in prison. AuBuchon said gifts are limited and inmates are not allowed to receive clothing.
"What type of things can a female offender receive in prison?" said Taylor.
"Letters and money," said AuBuchon. "And, the money doesn't go directly to the offender. It goes to their promissory account."
Taylor asked the witness what advice he would give any female going to prison for life without parole.
"Mind your own business. Don't tell anybody why you're there. Obey the rules," said AuBuchon.
Following AuBuchon's testimony, the defense rested, and the prosecution had no rebuttal.
Judge Barry Bryan then read the charge to the jury in order for them to deliberate in the punishment phase.
Taylor delivered his closing speech to jurors before they began deliberations. He reminded jurors that, by finding Saenz or anyone else guilty of capital murder, means they would never see them in society again. He said "they will come out in a box."
"You will never see them again in society. They belong in another society now, the prison society," said Taylor.
Taylor reminded jurors that Saenz walked by them to come into court each day and would frequently stop and stand outside of the courthouse talking with family. He says she's the same woman who "did not bury her head in the sand," knowing the charges against her. Taylor says she still supported her children.
The defense also pointed out that Saenz will not get out again, citing there is no way she can get out into society ever again.
"She's never getting out again. Society will not see her," said Taylor.
Taylor said Saenz is not a threat to society by being in the penitentiary.
"It's not a special place, just another corner of hell. And, she will be there the rest of her life," said Taylor.
Herrington pointed out that Saenz was found stealing Demerol at her job in 2005. Documents, he says, also revealed that Saenz administered Demerol to patients who were not in pain.
The prosecution also reminded jurors of the criminal history against Saenz involving conflict with her husband. And, he reminded jurors of what he believed Saenz did at the Lufkin DaVita Clinic in 2008.
"I'm sure that her family has suffered," said Herrington. However, he asked jurors not to forget about the victims in this case.
"They are innocent victims," said Herrington. "The only thing they did wrong was trust the defendant."
Herrington shared pictures with the jury, reminding jurors of the victims' incidents at the clinic.
The jury was then dismissed for deliberation.
Victim's family members were allowed to give impact statements following the sentencing. The daughter of Thelma Metcalf told Saenz "because of someone like you [Saenz]" her mother was no longer alive. She also said, "to have this outcome is satisfying."
Metcalf's daughter recalled it is four years to the date that her mother died.
An alternate juror says he was unhappy with the outcome of the whole trial.
"From the beginning to the end, I felt she was innocent. And, I still feel that way," said Brian Bowling.
Bowling wasn't one of the 12 people who found Saenz guilty and sentenced the former nurse To life in prison. But, as an alternate juror, Bowling sat in on all testimony in case he was needed. If he had been called to vote, he says he could have made a difference.
"I don't believe the state satisfied the burden of proof," said Bowling.
Prosecuting attorney Clyde Herrington says it was a job well done, underscored by the jury's verdict.
"I was scared that we would not be able to present the facts of this case in a manner that they were understandable by jury," said Herrington.
Family members like the daughter of victim opal few, are happy to move past this part of tragedy.
"I think the jury did a great job. I would not have wanted to be in their shoes, under any means. I'm just grateful that the guilty verdict was reached. Grateful that she won't be allowed the opportunity to do it again to some other family," said Linda Few.
"The sentencing was fair. She got what was do unto her. She's of age and she's held accountable for what she does," said the daughter of victim Cora Bryant, Angela Scott.
The Saenz family declined to comment on the sentence. However, Defense Attorney Steve Taylor says life in prison is a fair decision.
"We think the jury worked hard. They listened to 17 days of testimony. They sat there without opening their mouths. One day off, they came back and deliberated over 14 hours in 2 days," said Taylor.
After the punishment was read, Saenz returned to Angelina County Jail, while her legal team is already starting the appeals process.