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Respiratory therapist convicted of deaths at Missouri hospital gets 18 years in prison

A former Chillicothe respiratory therapist, who was living in Johnson County, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for the 2002 deaths of two patients who prosecutors say were poisoned.

Jennifer Hall, 42, was sentenced Friday after pleading guilty in April in Livingston County to charges that included two counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter. She was initially charged with murder in the deaths of Fern Franco, 75, and David Wesley Harper, 37, both of whom were patients at Hedrick Medical Center in Chillicothe where Hall worked at the time.

While Hall was employed at the hospital from December 2001 to May 2002, the hospital saw 18 cardiac arrests, or “Code Blue” events, and nine “medically suspicious” deaths, according to court records. Before then, the hospital saw an average of one Code Blue a year.

This booking mug shot by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department shows Jennifer Hall after her arrest on May 12, 2022. She was arrested under the name Jennifer Semaboye, of Overland Park, the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office said.
This booking mug shot by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department shows Jennifer Hall after her arrest on May 12, 2022. She was arrested under the name Jennifer Semaboye, of Overland Park, the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office said.

Prosecutors alleged Hall had a “dark and sinister need to artificially code patients.” In her plea agreement, she admitted to giving the patients unauthorized drugs.

“She will now be imprisoned for some of that conduct, and those of us who contemplate what Jennifer Hall is capable of will sleep better at night,” Prosecuting Attorney Adam Warren said in a statement.

Long before Hall was charged, the families of five patients who died brought wrongful-death claims against the hospital in 2010. They accused Hall of being a serial killer who poisoned their loved ones while they were being treated. The Missouri Supreme Court ultimately found that the statute of limitations had expired for civil action.

For 10 years, Warren said, the criminal case was not “appropriately investigated” by law enforcement. In 2012, he pledged to reopen the investigation.

The Star’s Mike Hendricks and Bill Lukitsch contributed to this report.