Former respiratory therapist pleads not guilty to murder charge, poisoning patient
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Jennifer Hall, a former respiratory therapist charged with murdering a patient in 2002, has pleaded not guilty.
Hall, who had most recently lived in Overland Park, appeared in DeKalb County Court on Thursday. She had been arrested one week prior after investigators tracked her to an extended stay hotel in Overland Park near I-435 and Metcalf.
According to KCTV5′s previous reporting, Hall worked at Hedrick Medical Center from December 2001 - May 2002. During her employment, the rate of cardiac collapse incidents “rose alarmingly,” a probable cause document stated. Investigators stated 18 such incidents were recorded during her employment at the Chillicothe hospital when the facility had one incident per year on average.
A probable cause document stated that from those 18 cases of cardiac collapse, nine people died. Staff had believed Hall was responsible for the patient deaths and the administration ordered Hall to be monitored.
One patient, Fern Franco, was found dead in the morning hours of May 18, 2002. An autopsy on Franco’s remains, according to the probable cause document, revealed the presence of succinylcholine and morphine: “two substances which medical records revealed were not prescribed to Ms Franco or ordered by her doctors.”
A Chillicothe police officer testified that “Hall’s victim was a sick, defenseless, elderly woman who was depending on Hall to care for her physical ailment within a medical facility. The substance Hall used to brutally take Fern Franco’s life, succinylcholine, paralyzes the victim’s muscles, including the diaphragm, causing the victim to suffer a ghastly death from suffocation while still maintaining full consciousness and awareness that they are unable to breathe. Morphine also acts to suppress respiration and is not given to pneumonia patients for that reason.”
Hall was charged with first-degree murder on May 4.
Franco’s granddaughter, Aprille Franco, said she was glad to see Hall in custody. She hoped it would help her family find closure after waiting for nearly two decades.
“Maybe her soul can rest,” Franco said, “and she can go where she’s supposed to go, knowing there are people who are out here caring about her.”
Hall’s attorney, Matthew O’Connor, called the arrest frustrating. He said he had been in talks with the Livingston County Prosecutor’s Office to allow Hall to turn herself in prior to the arrest in Overland Park.
O’Connor said in previous interviews that no evidence connected Hall to Franco’s death.
Hall is set for a bond hearing on May 27.
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