‘Medically Suspicious’: Former Respiratory Therapist Pleads Guilty In Deaths Of Patients 20 Years Ago

[Screenshot/YouTube/Fox 4 News Kansas City]

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A former respiratory therapist has pleaded guilty for her involvement in the deaths of two patients at a Missouri hospital more than two decades ago.

Jennifer Hall, 42, was initially arrested and charged with the first-degree murder of 75-year-old Fern Franco and 37-year-old David Wesley Harper in 2022, both of whom were patients under her care at Chillicothe ‘s Hedrick Medical Center in 2002, The Kansas City Star reported. On April 21, Hall pleaded guilty to lesser charges — two counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter and one count of second-degree assault, the outlet stated.

Franco and Harper were just two of the nine patients who died at the hospital over a period of several months in 2002 under “medically suspicious” circumstances, CBS News reported. From the time Hall began working at the hospital in Dec. 2001 until she was placed on administrative leave in May 2002, there were reportedly 18 cardiac arrests, or “Code Blue” events. Previously, the hospital had only averaged a total of one “Code Blue” event per year.

“She liked Code Blues,” one nurse testified of Hall, according to the Star.

After a patient’s heart stopped on Feb. 18, 2002, Dr. Cal Greenlaw became suspicious after struggling to revive the patient and discovering that two other patients had died due to Code Blue events, the Star reported. Greenlaw reportedly told hospital administrators “there was someone on staff at Hedrick who was attempting to kill and sometimes succeeding in killing patients.” He even went so far as to accuse Hall, but testified that hospital management took no steps to investigate, the outlet reported. (RELATED: VA Nurse Still On Payroll Despite Charge He Beat 70-Year-Old Vet To Death)

Franco, believed to be Hall’s final victim at the hospital, was found dead on May 18, 2002, and Hall was seen leaving her room, the outlet reported. An autopsy by Livingston County Coroner Scott Lindley concluded Franco had morphine and succinylcholine in her system, neither of which had been prescribed to her, as she had been admitted for pneumonia. Both drugs would have made it more difficult for Franco to get oxygen to her lungs, Lindley revealed to the Star. Succinylcholine, a powerful muscle relaxant, is also difficult to detect post-mortem, Lindley continued.

After Franco’s death, Hall was placed on administrative leave.

Lindley told the Star that having Hall admit to administering unauthorized drugs to patients was a “big deal.”

“I don’t think there’s any doubt in my mind that she always thought she would never be prosecuted,” he continued.