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Woman arrested in 2002 Missouri hospital patient's death

Nine patients died amid a series of “medically suspicious” events 20 years ago. Now a former employee is charged in the murder of one of the patients.
Credit: sasun Bughdaryan - stock.adobe.c
Gavel and handcuffs

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — A former respiratory therapist charged with first-degree murder in the death of a patient in Missouri 20 years ago has been arrested, authorities said.

Deputies arrested Jennifer Hall, 41, on Thursday evening, the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office announced in a Facebook post. Hall was charged this month in the 2002 death of Fern Franco — one of nine people who died at Hedrick Medical Center in Chillicothe over several months in 2002 amid a series of “medically suspicious” events at the hospital, according to court documents in Hall’s case.

Hall worked as a respiratory therapist at the hospital when the patients all died from cardiac collapse, officials have said. Matthew O’Connor, who has represented Hall in the past, said earlier this week that no evidence exists to connect Hall to the deaths. Hall has previously denied any involvement.

The case was revived after an analysis of Franco’s tissue samples found morphine and a powerful muscle relaxant used in anesthesia in her system. Neither drug was prescribed or ordered for her by her doctors, investigators said.

Some staff at the hospital believed Hall was responsible because of her proximity to the stricken patients, her access to deadly pharmaceuticals, and because she notified staff of every patient’s cardiac emergency, according to court documents.

Hall was placed on administrative leave three days after Franco’s death.