Hospital worker who suffocated still-conscious patients is jailed for deaths

A former respiratory therapist was handed a maximum prison sentence after pleading guilty to killing two patients over 20 years ago.

Jennifer Hall, 42, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Friday, months after pleading guilty to two charges of involuntary manslaughter one charge of second-degree assault.

Hall was a former respiratory therapist at Hedrick Medical Center in Chillicothe, Missouri over 20 years ago. She first drew suspicion in 2002, when nine of her former patients died in ‘medically suspicious’ events.

Hall worked at the medical facility from December 2001 through May 2002. During that time period, a total of 18 patients went into cardiac arrest – also known as a ‘Code Blue’ event.

Before her tenure, Hedrick Medical Center averaged one ‘Code Blue’ event per year.

Hall was only charged for the deaths of two patients under her care – Fern Franco, 75, and David Wesley Harper, 37.

The case against Hall was reopened after an analysis of a tissue sample from Franco tested positive for morphine and succinylcholine – a powerful muscle relaxant.

According to prosecutors, the drugs caused Franco to suffer a ‘ghastly death from suffocation while still maintaining full consciousness and awareness.’

Prosecutors called the deaths ‘medically suspicious,’ and agreed with hospital staff that Hall was likely responsible due to her easy access to the drugs found in Franco’s body.

Hall was charged with murder in May, 2022 – a full 20 years after she stopped working at Hedrick Medical Center.

Hall was taken into custody a week later and originally pleaded not guilty and denied all involvement in the deaths.

In April 2023, she changed her plea to guilty after receiving a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter.

On Friday, a judge sentenced her to 18 years in prison with the possibility for parole.

Livingston County Prosecutor Adam Warren said it was ‘a sentence 20 years in the making.’

‘Families of loved ones, Doctors, and Nurses have been waiting for this day,’ Warren said. ‘It wouldn’t have happened without the efforts of the Chillicothe Police Department who gave this complicated cold case enough time and energy to get this conviction.’

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