CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — A former Chillicothe hospital worker faces new charges, accused of murdering a second patient more than 20 years ago.
This week, the Livingston County Prosecutor Adam Warren charged Jennifer Hall with first-degree murder in the death of 37-year-old David Wesley Harper.
Hall already faces first-degree murder in the death of 75-year-old Fern Franco. Since that filing, Hall’s gotten a new attorney, Molly Hastings. Her former attorney, Matthew O’Connor, has retired.
“I have no qualms accepting her as a client,” Hastings said of Hall on Friday. “I think she deserves the best defense, and we are going to plead not guilty to each and every charge.”
“Absolutely,” Hastings said when asked if Hall was not guilty on this second charge.
Franco and Harper both died in 2002 while patients at Hedrick Medical Center. Hall worked as a respiratory therapist at the hospital for six months between December 2001 and May 2002.
During those five months, nine patients at the hospital died, including Franco and Hall, according to probable cause statements.
Hastings said there’s been no smoking gun since previous Livingston County prosecutors have reviewed and decided not to file charges against Hall.
“This is a case based on a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking,” Hastings said.
Doctors at the hospital admitted Harper for bronchitis on March 18, 2002. Two days later, doctors said Harper improved enough to be discharged. Harper ultimately agreed to stay another night so doctors could fit him for a C-PAP mask, according to the probable cause statement.
He died the next day.
Hall was the respiratory therapist on Harper’s case, according to court documents. The documents also show Hall failed to record two visits to Harper’s room during the final 25 minutes of his life. Information Hall recorded on a different set of medical documents show she was with Harper as he died.
After his death, other hospital employees reported finding a vial of succinylcholine in Hall’s pocket, according to the probable cause statement. It goes on to say that Hall was not certified to administer the drug to patients.
Succinylcholine paralyzes the victim’s muscles, including the diaphragm, causing the victim to suffocate while still being conscious and aware of what is happening.
Warren’s not commenting on the case. Hastings said the prosecution has no eyewitnesses.
“They have no confession,” she said. “They have a lot of folks kind of looking backwards and making assumptions, but I think that there is definitely a lot to work with from a criminal defense perspective.”
Hall is also accused of using succinylcholine to murder Fern Franco a month after Harper died, according to court documents.
“I don’t know if there’s anything I can say to offer them comfort,” Hastings continued when asked what she’d say to the two families. “But I would just ask that they be open minded to what the evidence actually shows.”
Hall is scheduled to make her first appearance on first-degree murder charges in Harper’s death on March 1.
Her trial for the murder of Fern Franco will take place in Clinton County instead of Livingston County, Missouri. It is scheduled to begin on May 15.