Ex-worker is accused 20 years later, after a spate of deaths in hospitals

Saturday, May 21, 2022
author picture Mia Chevalier
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A Respiratory Therapist Is Accused Of Murdering Fern Franco

A respiratory therapist accused of murdering Fern Franco has been charged with first-degree murder. Hall worked at Hendrick Medical Center from December 2001 to May 2002. During that time‚ nine patients died of cardiac arrest or respiratory arrest while under Hall's care. The hospital's rate of cardiac arrest before Hall arrived was one per year. The hospital had a policy of notifying staff about cardiac emergencies‚ but Hall's involvement in Franco's death was considered medically suspicious.

Jennifer Anne Hall‚ a rural Missouri respiratory therapist‚ experienced 18 code-blue incidents in the five months she was there. This is an alarming rise in sudden cardiac arrests for a hospital which historically only had one per year. Nineteen of these patients were killed‚ while nine others survived. Hall was indicted for this crime twenty years later. First-degree murder Fern Franco‚ 75 years old‚ was one of those who died. Adam Warren‚ the Livingston County Prosecuting attorney‚ launched an investigation 10 year ago. He claimed that Franco died from lethal doses succinylcholine‚ a relaxant which paralyzes respiratory muscles‚ and morphine. According to the prosecutor‚ there was no indication of a motive for Franco's death or why it took over a decade. Matt O'Connor Hall's lawyer claimed that Hall is innocent. He also stated that Hall was not able to access succinylcholine or morphine as she worked as a respiratory therapist. He claimed that Hall was made a scapegoat because she had been convicted of arson in 2005 and released. Hall could be facing additional murder charges for the deaths of Hedrick in 2002. Warren refused interview requests. Livingston County Sheriff Steve Cox didn't respond to email and phone messages seeking comment. Aprille Franco Franco is Franco's grand-daughter. She hopes that investigators can get to the bottom for the other deaths. Franco‚ 44 years old‚ from Kansas City‚ Missouri said it for the sake of other families. For 20 years they have been asking for the answers. My grandma is the one who will find them answers. Hall‚ 41 years old‚ has pleaded not guilty and was sentenced to a year in jail without bail. OConnor stated that he would seek bond to allow Hall to receive chemotherapy for leukemia. OConnor requested bond to allow Hall chemotherapy treatment for leukemia. A hearing was scheduled for May 27. In December 2001‚ she began her work at Hedrick. Chillicothe is a small town with 9‚100 inhabitants‚ located 90 miles (145 km) northeast of Kansas City. Brian Schmidt‚ Chillicothe officer stated that Hall experienced sudden cardiac collapses during his brief stay at Hedrick. Code blues was a sign of alarm. Scott Lindley‚ the county Coroner‚ stated that although Hall was raised by hospital officials‚ they did all they could to hide the matter to keep it from bad press. At the time‚ no criminal investigation was initiated. In 2010‚ five relatives of deceased patients filed a wrongful death lawsuit against St. Lukes Health System naming the hospital. In 2019‚ the Missouri Supreme Court dismissed the suit‚ ruling that it had been filed after the deadline. St. Lukes Health System stated in a statement‚ that Hedrick was taken over by it more than one year after his death. The statement stated that we too are interested only in truth and hope for a resolution to the investigation. Warren was elected as a prosecutor in 2010. In 2012‚ the investigators opened the probe. He stated that he did not believe any thorough investigations had been conducted. People of different ages and health levels were affected by the deaths. Charles OHara (88)‚ a World War II veteran‚ died on February 2‚ 2002 after being admitted to the hospital for treatment of high temperatures‚ vomiting‚ and agitation. Coval Gann‚ a retired conservation agent was 82. David Harper‚ however‚ was only 37. Although he had pneumonia and was in hospital‚ the lawsuit claimed that Harper was much healthier than he thought. He was just about to be released. On March 20‚ 2002‚ he died. Shirley Eller‚ 49 years old‚ was just a day from returning home following treatment for pneumonia. She collapsed on March 9 2002 and later died. According to the lawsuit‚ Ellers' death could be attributed natural causes. This is the same case as for the other deaths. Helen Pittman Ellers' sister found this puzzling. Eller was active and healthy despite smoking. Pittman stated that it was quite shocking. This just seems very suspicious. Shirley did a good job. Franco was also admitted to hospital with pneumonia. Hall‚ and an additional staff member named J.A. Her death was confirmed by the probable cause statement. Schmidt explained that Hall was caring for a physically ill elderly lady who was defenseless and sick. Franco was conscious‚ but he said succinylcholine led to a horrible death by suffocation. Three days following Franco's death‚ Hall was put on administrative leave and code blue incidents resumed their historical frequency according to Schmidts' report. Hall was dismissed months later but it wasn't because of patient deaths. OConnor claimed that she was fired because hospital officials discovered she had been convicted for arson at a small Missouri hospital in Harrisonville. After being granted a bail hearing‚ OConnor was released from jail and spent the next year in prison before she was acquitted during a second trial. O'Connor said it was unfathomable for Hall to be again singled out because she did not commit a crime. O'Connor stated that it is horrible to go through the process once. It is an inexplicable nightmare to go through the process twice. Hall should be near patients‚ he said. It's small and has a very small staff. Although she was not ready to give up on her older sister's death twenty years ago‚ Pittman‚ now 79‚ wants investigators to continue looking into Shirley Ellers case. Pittman stated that it was hard to believe that people could be so mean. They can‚ I suppose. ___ Rhonda Shafner‚ News Researcher‚ contributed from New York.