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Missouri Respiratory Therapist Admits to Poisoning Three Patients Almost Two Decades After Their Deaths

Fern Franco, 75, was the last patient to suffer the consequence of Jennifer Hall's alleged attacks.
Cover Image Source: YouTube/FOX4 News Kansas City
Cover Image Source: YouTube/FOX4 News Kansas City

A woman working in a hospital admitted taking the lives of three patients under her care. Respiratory therapist Jennifer Hall caused grave harm to patients at Hedrick Medical Center in Chillicothe, Missouri, Oxygen reported.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Karolina Kaboompics
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Karolina Kaboompics

Hall joined Hedrick Medical Center in December 2001. Just two months later, a series of medical emergencies occurred with multiple patients, Oxygen reported. 

Fern Franco, 75 was the last patient to suffer the consequence of Hall's alleged attacks, Oxygen reported. Franco was admitted to the medical center on May 17, 2002, to receive treatment for pneumonia in her lungs. The following day, she went into cardiac arrest. Hall was the medical official present to assist her.

At the time, Hall got a nurse to help her declared a “code blue,” implying that the patient needed immediate resuscitation, Oxygen reported. Franco died despite the best efforts of doctors and other medical professionals. 


Franco's cause of death was listed to be from natural causes, Oxygen reported. She was quickly embalmed and buried.

Scott Lindley, former Livingston County coroner and funeral home owner, received information that made him dig deep into the Franco case. “Then on the 21st, I got some indication from some of the nurses at the hospital… that maybe she didn’t die as a result of natural causes, and I was taken aback,” Lindley said.

Dr. Cal Greenlaw, an internal medicine physician, also had certain suspicions about the way the patients were being treated at the institution, Oxygen reported. 

“He said, ‘Somebody’s juicing my patients,’” Lindley recalled, Oxygen reported. “He thought somebody was giving them something that would poison the patient while they were there at the hospital.”

During a deposition, Greenlaw shared how a patient in the hospital coded, or went into cardiac arrest, and needed to have her heart restarted. Doctors determined her condition was due to dangerously low blood sugar. 

Greenlaw, however, could not understand how this particular patient's blood sugar could get so low that her life was in danger.

“Nothing made sense of why she should code. She wasn’t that sick. She had mild pneumonia. She was fairly young,” Greenlaw said in the deposition. “I was discussing with nurses that something major is wrong here — why this person had coded because of low blood sugar and continued to code.”


Greenlaw believed that the patient was administered insulin — even though there being no reason for her to be given the drug, Oxygen reported.

Coval Gann was another mysterious death that occurred during Hall's tenure. His cause of death was listed as a heart attack, and his family initially did not suspect any foul play. 

“82 years old. He was kind of in frail health,” said David Gann, Coval’s son, Oxygen reported. “I thought, ‘Well, maybe that’s just what happens.’”

The issue with charging Hall for any crime lay with the drug she was allegedly using to harm the patients— insulin. “When you autopsy somebody from that, there’s nothing to be seen,” Lindley said. “‘Cause that drug dissipates so quickly after someone dies, that it’s hard to find it.”

On combing through the records, Lindley found that the common denominator in all the patients that had coded in the last few months was Hall.

The realization was enough for him to restrict her services. She was instructed not to be in any patient room without another medical professional.

After Franco's death, she was fired. 

Hall also had a criminal history, Oxygen reported. She was found guilty of arson for setting to fire the place where she was previously employed. Hedrick Medical Center stated that they had no idea about her criminal history. After Hall was fired, she spent one year in prison for the arson charge.

Lindley decided to focus on another drug to prove Hall's guilt in more serious crimes, Oxygen reported.

“Succinylcholine is a paralytic agent that they use to intubate people,” Livingston County prosecuting attorney Adam Warren said. “When they put that tube down your throat to help you breathe, you will often gag or cough. So, they use succinylcholine to paralyze your throat.”

Wrong doses of succinylcholine can cause injury or death, Oxygen reported.

Lindley also thought that it would be a worthy lead to follow. Since Franco was embalmed so quickly, he believed that traces of succinylcholine might be found in her body. He was right, and in 2004 he got confirmation of that drug being present in Franco's system. This could indicate foul play.

Despite this newfound evidence ,the county prosecutor and the state attorney general’s office did not want to proceed with the case, Oxygen reported. It was due to Lindley's constant efforts that in 2018,  Lt. Brian Schmidt was assigned to the case.

Evidence from the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, the autopsy of Franco, and deposition gave him enough to go forward with a criminal case in 2022. 

The succinylcholine was successfully connected to Hall, the Kansas City Star reported.

David Wesley Harper, a 37-year-old man was another patient who died at Hedrick Medical Center in 2002, while Hall was working there, the Kansas City Star reported. When Harper died, Hall allegedly had a vial of succinylcholine in her pocket, as per the charging document.

Authorities further alleged that both Harper and Franco were given the drug before their deaths.

“According to medical records, succinylcholine was not used during the attempt to resuscitate Mr. Harper. Succinylcholine was stocked on the crash cart to which Hall had access, and was one of the substances identified as causing the death of Fern Franco four weeks after Mr. Harper’s murder,” a Chillicothe police officer wrote in a probable-cause affidavit seeking criminal charges against Hall.


“The impulse problems. The impulse control,” Warren said. “The need to hurt other people because she’s unable to process her own life. She was motivated to harm people. And got pleasure from it."

Rather than going to trial, she confessed to poisoning three patients.

Hall was initially charged with first-degree murder for the deaths of Franco, 75, and Harper, PEOPLE reported.

Hall pleaded guilty to reduced first-degree involuntary manslaughter counts in connection with the deaths of Fern Franco and Coval Gann, PEOPLE reported. She was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Hall also pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree assault in the death of Norma Pearson, PEOPLE reported. 

The charge regarding Harper was dismissed as per defense attorney Molly Hastings, PEOPLE reported.

David Gann does not think the punishments are enough. “She should spend the rest of her life in prison,” he insisted. “She’s a serial murder case. But at least that’s better than nothing. I just wish it had happened when my mom was alive so she could have had some closure on it also."

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