Former Missouri respiratory therapist facing murder charge

A former respiratory therapist in Missouri has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the 2002 death of a patient, authorities said.

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An arrest warrant was issued for Jennifer Anne Hall, 41, whose last address was listed as Overland Park, Kansas, KCTV reported.

On May 4, the Livingston County prosecutor charged Hall with first-degree murder in connection with the May 18, 2002 death of Fern Franco, who was a patient at the Hedrick Medical Center in Chillicothe, Missouri, according to The Kansas City Star.

According to a probable cause statement, Hall was employed at the facility from Dec. 16, 2001, to May 18, 2002, the newspaper reported. During that time, nine patients in the hospital died of cardiac arrest, which was deemed “medically suspicious,” according to documents accompanying the probable cause document.

Court documents show Hall and another employee discovered Franco wasn’t breathing in her hospital bed, WDAF-TV reported. The nurse said Hall was near Franco’s room at the time Franco stopped breathing and Hall entered Franco’s room with her. Staff members attempted to revive Franco by giving her atropine and epinephrine but no other substances, the television station reported.

Coroners conducting an autopsy found traces of succinylcholine and morphine, KCTV reported. An investigation determined that the drugs were “two substances which medical records revealed were not prescribed to Ms. Franco or ordered by her doctors.”

Hall was placed on administrative leave three days after Franco’s death, The Star reported. In 2010, five of the families of patients who died during the time Hall was employed at Hedrick filed a wrongful death suit against the hospital, according to the newspaper.

The lawsuit alleged that Hall intentionally caused the patients’ deaths by delivering fatal injections, a charge she denied.

“My name is just thrown out there, and it’s for horrifying reasons,” Hall told The Star in 2015. “I want my name to be cleared, yes. At the same time, I don’t want my character destroyed.”

In 2019, the Missouri Supreme Court threw out the wrongful death suits, ruling unanimously that they had been filed too late, beyond the three-year statute of limitations, the newspaper reported. There is no statute of limitations for homicide, The Star reported.

Matthew O’Connor, who has represented Hall in the past, said no evidence exists to connect her to the deaths, KCTV reported.

“Hall’s victim was a sick, defenseless, elderly woman who was depending on Hall to care for her physical ailment within a medical facility,” Chillicothe Police Officer Brian Schmidt wrote in the documents that accompanied the probable cause statement. “The substance Hall used to brutally take Fern Franco’s life ... paralyzes the victim’s muscles, including the diaphragm, causing the victim to suffer a ghastly death from suffocation while still maintaining full consciousness.”

According to the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office, Hall might be using the name Semaboye, KCTV reported. She has not been arrested.