030 - PTB discusses Kim Saenz, bleach and our origin story
Kim Saenz was born in Fall River, Massachusetts 1973. In 2007 she moved to Lufkin, Texas and was hired as a nurse at DaVita's dialysis clinic. She was hired despite a poor employment history. She had been fired from four health care jobs for stealing medical and cheating on a urine test.
She had also been arrested for public intoxication and criminal trespass after a 2007 domestic disturbance with her husband, though the two later reconciled. She has two children.
In the spring of 2008 the clinic that Saenz worked for saw a spike in patients falling seriously ill. Paramedics were called to the clinic 30 times in April (double the previous years).
Patients also went into cardiac arrest , In one instance one patient, Thelma Metcalf, had to go the ER several times due to getting too much blood thinner and later died.
DaVita sent one of its clinical coordinators, Amy Clinton, to Lufkin to find out what was wrong. She instituted several changes to minimize risk and protect against death. Nurses were reassigned to different tasks and hours.
On April 28, 2008, Saenz showed up to work and was told by Clinton that she had been reassigned for the day to work as a patient care technician. Saenz didn’t like this and felt like it was beneath her. She was rude to coworkers and clients. Several coworkers passed their concerns onto their superiors. A department official wrote the state health inspectors and asked them to investigate.
Patients Linda Hall and Lurlene Hamilton testified that they saw Saenz draw a bleach solution into two syringes, then inject the substance into dialysis lines.
When confronted Saenz said she was cleaning an unused dialysis machine and used a syringe to get a precise measurement–a method that was contrary to policy.
The bucket and syringes both tested positive for bleach and the police were called in. The clinic was shut down for two weeks and several other syringes she used were tested. When the results came back positive she was fired and her license was suspended.
Saenz then applied to work as a receptionist in a Lufkin medical office, in violation of her bail.
A search of her hard drive revealed searches for whether or not bleach could kill. When questioned by the cops she said she used bleach to clean the needles and claimed there were no measuring cups available.
She was then arrested on five counts of capital murder and five counts of aggravate assault with a deadly weapon.
The local police, having no way to test for bleach in deceased patients, contacted Mark Sochaski, an analytical chemist and bioterrorism expert. He was developing a test for measuring chlorine exposure by measuring the presence of chlorotyrosine, an amino acid formed from exposure to chlorinating agents like bleach. He tested several samples sent to him by investigators and found that chlorotyrosine peaks in nine samples–something that could only be explained by exposure to bleach.
When the bleach entered the patients' bloodstream, it causes blood cells to explode, which in turn released iron. This process, called hemolysis, caused them to go into cardiac arrest and die.
In March 2012 Saenz was convicted of murdering five patients and injuring five others. Prosectors sought the death penalty but she was sentenced to life in prizon with no possibility of parole.