Sunday, August 11, 2013


by Earl Staggs

Best-selling author John Foxjohn epitomizes the phrase "been there—done that." Born and raised in the rural East Texas town of Nacogdoches, he quit high school and joined the Army at seventeen. He's a Viet Nam veteran, former Army Airborne Ranger, policeman, homicide detective, retired teacher and coach.  Now he's a multi-published author.
With all that behind him, you can easily imagine John has a lot of stories to write.
He talks about one of them here today.  After you read what he has to say, you'll understand why he had to write KILLER NURSE.
You might also think twice next time you need medical assistance.
Here's John.
by John Foxjohn
I’m an author who writes detective novels, mysteries, suspense, legal thrillers, and even romantic suspense—at least that is what I was published under until my first true crime, Killer Nurse came out.
When I first began writing, experienced writers gave me a piece of advice that I never forgot: they told me to write what I know. Because of my background in law enforcement and homicide investigations, I naturally gravitated in that direction. It also helped that I liked to read these types of books.   
My gravitating to the genre was as close to paranormal or fantasy that I have ever gotten, and no offense intended, ever wanted to. If that is what people like, then it’s not up to me to judge, but I know nothing about it and don’t read it. Thus I don’t write it, either.
However, circumstances forced me to look at and even include a small part of paranormal in my true crime, Killer Nurse.
Writing fiction is about creating people and situations, and the author can take them and those events he or she creates any direction he chooses. But true crime is totally different. The author has to take real people and real events and write them the way they actually happened but in a way that creates a good read.
I could have left out the paranormal event that I came across in the process of writing Killer Nurse, and few if anyone would have known about it. However, I was faced with two problems: first, it was extremely interesting and came about from an obscure employee of the Lufkin Police Department—one that no one even knew about before the book came out. She was an unknown entity because she didn’t testify in the trial and her name was never
mentioned. I came across her simply because I talked to so many people that one just happened to mention her with the suggestion that I should talk to her.
The second problem, even though there was an element of the paranormal involved, it was the single most important thing that turned the case. Here’s the background that led to this event:
On Saturday, April 26, 2008, Ms. Opal Mae Few, a ninety-one-year-old patient at the DaVita Dialysis Center in Lufkin, Texas, was at home with her family. She had an appointment later that afternoon to go to DaVita and take her dialysis treatment. However, that morning she received a call from DaVita. It seemed that they had some cancellations and could get her in that morning if she wanted to.
Ms. Few, who was a spirited little old lady, jumped at the chance to get it over with. Her son dropped her off, and she began treatments at 9:30 Saturday morning on April 26. That would be the last time the family saw Ms. Few alive. She died while hooked up to the dialysis machine.   
The fact that she died hooked up to the machine is in itself a little scary. The odds of a patient dying while hooked up is 1/700,000. The dialysis patients are in a medical facility with doctors and nurses present and monitoring them, and they are within a minute of two hospitals.
1/700,000 is high odds, but as it happened, Ms. Few was the fifth patient who died while hooked up to the machine at DaVita Clinic in Lufkin in twenty-six days. Don’t bother trying to calculate those odds—your calculator doesn’t have enough numbers.
Two days after Ms. Few died, two patients saw a DaVita nurse inject two other patients with bleach. The two witnesses’ stories brought on an investigation like no one had ever seen before. The Lufkin police, led by Sergeant Stephen Abbott, a supervisor of the detective division, began what they believed was an investigation for aggravated assault. The two patients actually survived the bleach injections.
Abbott brought in the crime scene unit and they began to collect evidence. The two witnesses had not only seen the nurse inject the patients with bleach, but also observed her throw the syringes away in two different sharps containers. The law requires that all syringes be disposed in sealed containers known as “sharps containers” to prevent staff and patients from accidental exposure to bio hazardous material.
Abbott did something that wasn’t necessary but would become one of the most important decisions in the entire scenario. Instead of just retrieving the two sharps containers the witnesses had indicated, Abbott directed CSU tech Christy Pate to collect all thirty-two sharps containers in the clinic.
While Pate collected them and other evidence, she inadvertently saw a list DaVita officials gave Abbott. The list was the five patients who’d died while hooked up to the dialysis machines.
The next day, Abbott and another detective supervisor named Mike Shurley interviewed the nurse, Kimberly Clark Saenz (pronounced Signs). In the process of the interview, Saenz told them she had never injected a patient with bleach but had used a 10cc syringe to measure bleach. Because Saenz said this, Abbott directed Pate to test every 10cc syringe for bleach in those 32 full sharps containers.
Tuesday morning, April 29, 2008, Pate began the arduous task of testing hundreds of syringes. By Friday afternoon, she’d completed the task. They didn’t find any more syringes that tested positive—they’d already found the ones the witnesses had claimed Saenz threw into the containers, and they had contained bleach.
Pate had done what Abbott directed her to do and done it well, but she couldn’t get past a deep feeling that she’d missed something. Something kept telling her she had to go back. She would later say it was almost like a force had invaded her.
Even though she was off on Saturday, May 3, she got up early because she was having a hard time sleeping. That feeling just wouldn’t leave her alone. Finally, she succumbed to the feeling and went to the police department.
Pate opened the door to the crime scene unit at 9:30 that morning. On the table were all the sharps containers that she’d examined, but one had the top off. As Pate looked at the open sharps container, she spotted a syringe right on top that she knew for a fact she hadn’t tested. It was a 3ml syringe and not the size the nurse had said she used. It was way too small to measure bleach with.
However, that wasn’t what took Pate’s breath away. The syringe was clearly marked with the DaVita patient’s name on it. Pate had accidently seen the list of patients who’d died while hooked up to the machine.
Exactly one week earlier at the exact same time, Ms. Opal Few walked into DaVita to receive her treatments.
Christy said her hand shook as she reached for Ms. Few’s 3ml syringe to test it. She pulled the plunger out of the syringe and with trembling fingers, put a small test strip inside the syringe. The color changing to purple took her breath away—it was positive for bleach.
           Almost in tears from the strain, she grabbed the phone to call her boss, Sgt. Abbott.
           They now had a murder investigation on their hands.
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Learn more about John and his other books:







Mar Preston said...

You look like an interesting fellow. I share your disinterest in the paranormal. I just can't get there myself, but I try.

John Foxjohn said...

Thank you Mar, LOL, I am not the best judge whether or not I am an interesting person. Some days I think I am, but most I don't think so.

Baskin Robbins had 32 flavors to try to suit most people's tastes, but I've just never been that fond of the paranormal scoop.

Earl Staggs said...

Thanks for visiting, John. I hope your signing at Murder by the Book was a huge success, and good luck with the rest of your KILLER NURSE tour.

John Foxjohn said...

Thanks Earl, and yes it did well. Almost sold out. Thanks for having me.

Kaye George said...

I saw the title and thought you might have taken on the nurse who killed all those patients (17, I think) in Nocona, TX. I was empaneled for the jury in her case, so I have a special interest in it.

This looks like an equally fascinating case. Best of luck with this! I'll bet it's a winner for you.

John Foxjohn said...

Kaye, if I remember correctly, she was charged with two murders. Kimberly Clark Saenz was convicted of 5 murders and three aggravated assaults.

This case is the most unique in history. It's the first time that anyone has been accused, charged, and convicted of killing people with bleach as the weapon.

Kaye George said...

The Nocona nurse pre-trial stuff dragged on for months, including a change of venue. She was charged with 10, but she pled at the last minute, so wasn't formally convicted. Her daughter was ready to testify against her! She said she could totally believe her mother had done this. I shudder to think I was in the same room with her--a very ordinary-looking woman.

John Foxjohn said...

Actually, it's a good thing she pled out. It is extremely difficult to convict medical professionals of these crimes.

Most are in jail because of confessions--not convictions.

I think you are lucky you wasn't on that jury. I talked to several of the jurors from the Saenz trial at my book signing. There was no doubt in their minds, hearts, or anything else she was guilty, but having to be the ones to say it still bother some of them.

Kaye George said...

Yes, I am! I had NO desire to be on a death penalty jury.