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Respiratory therapist linked to Missouri hospital death faces second murder charge

A Johnson County respiratory therapist, long suspected of playing a role in nine mysterious deaths at a Chillicothe, Missouri, medical center, is charged with a second count of first-degree murder stemming from a patient’s death more than 20 Years ago.

Livingston County prosecutors charged Jennifer Hall, 42, on Tuesday in the alleged killing of David Wesley Harper, a 37-year-old man who died at Hedrick Medical Center in 2002 while being treated for pneumonia. Hall has been incarcerated without bail since her arrest in May on first-degree murder charges in the death of 75-year-old Fern Franco.

In both cases, authorities say the patients were given succinylcholine, a muscle relaxant drug Hall had access to. He allegedly had a vial containing the drug in his pocket at the time of Harper’s sudden death, according to prosecution documents filed in Livingston County Circuit Court.

“According to the medical records, succinylcholine was not used in the attempt to resuscitate Mr. Harper. The succinylcholine was stored in the shock trolley to which Hall had access and was one of the substances identified as the cause of Fern Franco’s death four weeks after the murder of Mr Harper,” a Chillicothe police officer wrote in an affidavit seeking criminal charges against Collina.

From December 2001 to May 2002, Hall worked as a respiratory therapist at the 49-bed medical center where six others died in a sequence of events deemed “medically suspicious,” according to prosecution documents for Hall.

A total of 18 cardiac or respiratory arrests, also called “Code Blue” events, were recorded during Hall’s time working there. Before that the medical center averaged one a year.

Doctors and nurses had suspected for months that a killer was walking the corridors of their small hospital as patients died at an alarming rate. Hall was eventually placed on administrative leave on May 21, 2002.

In 2010, the families of five patients who died during that time filed wrongful death lawsuits against the hospital. They accused Hall of being a serial killer who poisoned their loved ones while they were being treated. But ultimately the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the statute of limitations had expired for the civil action and dismissed the lawsuit.

In 2012, Livingston County Attorney Adam Warren pledged to reopen a criminal investigation. Ten years later, on May 4, Hall was first indicted in connection with the death of Franco, whose body had been exhumed and examined by the Livingston County coroner in 2002. – he allegedly caused her to suffocate, the coroner.

The Star wrote at length about Hall in 2015. At the time, Hall denied causing anyone’s death. She also pleaded not guilty to one charge of first-degree murder in Franco’s death.

A criminal defense attorney representing Hall could not be reached immediately for comment late Friday.

Mike Hendricks and Eric Adler of The Star contributed to this report.

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