Hospital worker charged with murder 20 years after patient died

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. (WDAF) – Prosecutors in Livingston County, Mo., have charged a former Kansas City-area respiratory therapist with first-degree murder in the death of a hospital patient 20 years ago.

Jennifer Anne Hall, 41, has been charged with the 2002 murder of Fern Franco, who was hospitalized at Hedrick Medical Center in Chillicothe before dying in May of that year.

Court documents show that Hall and another employee discovered that Franco was not breathing in his hospital bed. The nurse said that Hall was near Franco’s room when Franco stopped breathing, and Hall entered Franco’s room with her, which she found odd.

The staff attempted to revive Franco while she “coded” and gave her atropine and epinephrine, but no other substances.

During an autopsy, a coroner noted the presence of succinylcholine and morphine. An investigation determined that the drugs were not prescribed to Franco or ordered by his doctors.

A medical expert said that succinylcholine paralyzes a patient’s muscles, leaving the victim unable to breathe. The victim was said to be suffocating while retaining full consciousness, according to the probable cause statement.

The probable cause statement shows Hall served as a respiratory therapist at the medical center from December 2001 to May 2002. She was placed on administrative leave on May 18, 2002, two days after Franco’s death.

According to probable cause, hospital employees reported that the number of cardiac emergencies among patients receiving care at the medical center rose to 18 during Hall’s employment. Prior to his hiring, the hospital averaged one incident per year. The hospital also reported a drop in the number of heart emergencies after Hall was discharged.

Of the 18 patients who suffered heart emergencies during this time, nine died.

Court documents show other nurses believed Hall was responsible for the patients’ deaths because of her closeness to the patients, her access to drugs – which are deadly if misused – and the fact that she was involved in reporting each of the victims’ deaths.

Hall is not in custody at this time. A warrant for her arrest was issued last week.

The Livingston County Sheriff’s Office has asked anyone with information about Hall’s location to call (660) 664-0515.


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