New details have emerged following the deaths of nine people at the same Missouri hospital after police arrested a former worker.
Jennifer Anne Hall is now charged with first-degree murder in one of the deaths at Hedrick Medical Center – that of 75-year-old Fern Franco.
Hall was a respiratory therapist during a five-month period during which the hospital experienced 18 Code Blue incidents.
According to a police investigator, this represented an alarming increase in sudden cardiac arrest events for a center that historically had an average of one per year.
Nine patients died and nine recovered.
Now prosecutors say one of them, named Franco, died from fatal doses of succinylcholine — a tranquilizer that paralyzes respiratory muscles — and the painkiller morphine.
Livingston County Prosecutor Adam Warren did not provide a possible motive and did not say why the investigation has taken a decade.
It’s unclear if Hall will face additional murder charges over the 2002 deaths at Hedrick.
Warren declined interview requests, and Livingston County Sheriff Steve Cox did not respond to phone and email messages requesting comment.
But her attorney, Matt O’Connor, said she was innocent of the murder charge she was facing.
He claims she had no access to succinylcholine, morphine or any other drugs.
The attorney said Hall became a scapegoat for the Hedrick deaths because of a conviction for arson at another hospital, from which she was acquitted in 2005.
Aprille Franco, Franco’s granddaughter, is hoping investigators will get to the bottom of the other deaths.
“Just for the sake of other families,” said Franco, 44, of Kansas City, Missouri.
“You’ve waited 20 years for answers. It is up to my grandmother’s case to find answers for her.”
Hall, 41, pleaded not guilty Thursday and will be jailed without bond.
She began working at Hedrick in December 2001.
Hospital officials are said to have been made aware of the concern about Hall but “did everything in the world to cover it up” to avoid bad publicity, said Scott Lindley, the county coroner.
No criminal investigations were initiated at the time.
In 2010, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed on behalf of relatives of five deceased patients, naming the hospital and the company that now operates it, St. Luke’s Health System.
The Missouri Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, ruling that it was filed after the statute of limitations had expired.
St. Luke’s health care system noted in a statement that it had taken over operations from Hedrick more than a year after his death.
“We, too, are only interested in the truth and look forward to a final resolution of the investigation,” the statement said.
The deaths affected people of different ages and health conditions.
Hall was placed on administrative leave three days after Franco’s death, and the Code Blue incidents “returned to their historic frequency,” according to Schmidt’s report.
She was fired months later, but not for patient deaths.
O’Connor said she was released after hospital officials learned she had been convicted of causing arson at another small Missouri hospital, Cass Regional Medical Center in Harrisonville, where she previously worked.
When she took the job at Chillicothe, she was free on appeal and later spent a year behind bars before being acquitted at a retrial.
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https://www.the-sun.com/news/5381898/nine-people-dead-same-hospital-suspect-named/ Shocking details emerge of the deaths of nine people in the same hospital after an unlikely suspect was named in a 20-year mystery