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Former Respiratory Therapist Admits To Involvement In Two Patients' Deaths
Jennifer Hall, 42, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths of Fern Franco and Coval Gann.
A former Missouri respiratory therapist suspected of killing several of her patients 20 years ago admitted her involvement in two deaths as part of a plea agreement.
Jennifer Hall, 42, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths of Fern Franco and Coval Gann, her attorney Molly Hastings told People this week. She also pleaded guilty on one charge of attempted assault in Norma Pearson's death
A date has not yet been scheduled for her sentencing.
Franco, Gann and Pearson were three of nine people who died mysteriously between 2001 and 2002 at Hedrick Medical Center in Chillicothe, Missouri — about 80 miles northwest of Kansas City — where Hall had worked as a respiratory therapist for about five months. Staff members accused Hall of injecting the people who died with the unprescribed drug succinylcholine, a muscle relaxant that could cause paralysis of the diaphragm, suffocating patients, charging documents obtained by KCTV allege.
Hall worked at the medical center for a mere five months. During that time, 18 "cardiac collapse" incidents – all viewed as "medically suspicious," according to the court documents – were recorded. Nine ultimately proved fatal. The rate of such events during that period were staggeringly abnormal: on average, one of these incidents would take place per year.
"Because of Hall's singular proximity to stricken patients, her access to pharmaceuticals which are deadly if misused, and her discovery of, and method of notifying staff of every patient's cardiac emergency, nursing staff believed Hall was responsible for the patient deaths," Chillicothe Police Officer Brian Schmidt wrote in an affidavit, according to Law&Crime.
Hall, who was put on leave after Franco's death, denied killing any of her patients in a 2012 interview with KMBC:
"It's shocking to know that somebody can think something so horrible of you and the real truth is out there somewhere," she told the outlet at the time.
An analysis of Franco's post-mortem tissue samples found morphine and a powerful muscle relaxant used in anesthesia, neither of which was prescribed by her doctors. Matt O'Connor, another lawyer for the former Missouri medical worker, previously claimed that Hall did not have access to those substances.
"What they miss is the substance that was found in the decedent's body — succinylcholine and morphine — Miss Hall did not have access to,” he told KMBC. “That would be something that only somebody doing surgery or something like that would have access to, that's heavily guarded, usually a code machine, something like that."
Originally, Hall was charged with first-degree murder in 75-year-old Franco's death and for the death of another man, 37-year-old David Wesley Harper. Hastings told People that the charges stemming from Harper's death have been dismissed and that no further charges will be filed against Hall.
Franco's granddaughter told CBS affiliate KCTV that they had been haunted by the dearth of answers surrounding their relative's death until Hall's arrest 20 years later in May of 2022.
"My dad wanted answers so we could finally put flowers on her grave knowing someone is responsible for this," Aprille Franco told the station.