In the five months that Jennifer Anne Hall was a respiratory therapist at Hedrick Medical Center, the rural Missouri hospital experienced 18 “code blue” incidents — an alarming increase in sudden cardiac arrest events for a hospital that historically averaged one of them a year, according to a police investigator. Nine of those patients died, and nine recovered. Twenty years later, Hall was charged this month with first-degree murder in one of the deaths — that of 75-year-old Fern Franco. Livingston County Prosecuting Attorney Adam Warren, who launched an investigation 10 years ago, said Franco died of lethal doses of succinylcholine — a relaxant that paralyzes the respiratory muscles — and the pain reliever morphine. The prosecutor did not disclose a possible motive or say why the investigation took a decade. Hall’s attorney, Matt O’Connor, said she is innocent and that as a respiratory therapist, she didn’t have access to succinylcholine, morphine or any other drugs. He said Hall became a scapegoat for the deaths at Hedrick because of an arson conviction that she was cleared of in 2005. It’s unclear if Hall will face additional murder charges in the 2002 deaths at Hedrick. Warren declined interview requests, and Livingston County Sheriff Steve Cox did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment. Aprille Franco, Franco’s granddaughter, hopes investigators get to the bottom of the other deaths. “Just for the other families’ sake,” Franco, 44, of Kansas City, Missouri, said. “They’ve been waiting 20 years for answers. It’s up to my grandma’s case to find answers for them.” Hall, 41, pleaded not guilty Thursday and is jailed without bond. O’Connor said he will seek bond so Hall can get chemotherapy treatment for leukemia. A hearing on that request was set for May 27. She began working at Hedrick in December 2001. The small hospital is in Chillicothe, a town of 9,100 residents 90 miles northeast of Kansas City. A probable cause statement from Chillicothe Officer Brian Schmidt said that during Hall’s brief time at Hedrick, sudden cardiac collapse incidents — code blues — “rose alarmingly.” Hospital officials were alerted to the concerns about Hall but “did everything in the world to cover it up” to avoid bad publicity, said Scott Lindley, the county coroner. No criminal investigation was launched at the time. A wrongful-death lawsuit naming the hospital and the company that now operates it, St. Luke’s Health System, was filed in 2010 on behalf of relatives of five patients who died. The Missouri Supreme Court tossed the lawsuit in 2019, ruling it was filed after the statute of limitations had run out. St. Luke’s Health System noted in a statement that it took over operation of Hedrick more than a year after the . . . read the full article here.