Ex Hospital Respiratory Therapist Jennifer Hall Pleads Guilty in Deaths of 2 Patients

While Jennifer Hall was employed at Hedrick Medical Center, the rate of cardiac collapses rose from one per year to 18 in 18 months.

Ex Hospital Respiratory Therapist Jennifer Hall Pleads Guilty in Deaths of 2 Patients

(Photo: hafakot, Adobe Stock)

A former respiratory therapist at Hedrick Medical Center in Chillicothe, Missouri, has pleaded guilty to first-degree involuntary manslaughter and second-degree assault of two patients.

Although Jennifer Hall, 42, pleaded guilty in the 2002 deaths of Fern Franco, 75, and David Wesley Harper, 37, she is suspected of being linked to several other “medically suspicious” events at the hospital, reports ID Crime Feed.

Hall was employed at Hedrick Medical Center from December 2001 to May 2002, and during her time there, the rate of cardiac collapse incidents “rose alarmingly,” reports KCTV. Although the hospital normally experiences one episode per year, there were 18 cases of cardiac collapse during Hall’s 18 months of employment. Nine of those 18 patients died, and Hall worked directly with all of those patients.

According to prosecutors, an autopsy done on Franco’s remains revealed two medications, including succinylcholine, that paralyzed her diaphragm and weren’t prescribed by doctors, reports CBS News. In addition to working with all of the victims, Hall had access to the medications used in their killings.

Harper died three days after he was admitted to the hospital for bronchitis. At the time of Harper’s death, Hall was found to have a vial of succinylcholine in her pocket, but she wasn’t certified to administer the drug, reports ID Crime Feed.

Authorities and her co-workers also found Hall’s other behaviors suspicious. She was the person who discovered all of the “Code Blue” events and notified other staff about them.

Hall was initially charged with first degree murder, but the charges were reduced.

USA TODAY reports that although the hospital was notified about Hall’s concerning behavior, the county coroner believes Hedrick Medical Center covered it up to avoid bad publicity. The hospital also didn’t investigate the matter.

The relatives of five patients who died filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in 2010 against the hospital and its operating company: St. Luke’s Health System. However, the lawsuit was dismissed in 2019 because the statute of limitations had passed.

Three days after Franco’s death, Hall was put on administrative leave. She was fired months later, but not because of the suspicious deaths. Hall was fired because she had been accused of setting a fire at her previous employer, which was another small hospital in Missouri. She was free on appeal when she was hired by Hedrick, reports USA TODAY. She was eventually acquitted of the arson charges.

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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