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Respiratory therapist who insisted her name was ‘just thrown out there’ after patient poisonings admits recklessly causing deaths

Jennifer Hall

Jennifer Hall (FOX 4 screengrab)

After 21 years, a former respiratory therapist in Missouri who proclaimed her innocence and made headlines for wearing an “I don’t f—ing care” hoodie when booked on suspicion of serial patient murders has admitted to recklessly causing the deaths of two patients.

Jennifer Anne Hall, now 42, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter and one count of second-degree attempted assault, all felonies, on Friday, April 21.

Hall appeared in Clinton County, Missouri, court alongside her attorney Molly Hastings to plead guilty to lesser charges, resulting in the dismissal of murder charges in the alleged poisoning deaths of 75-year-old Fern Franco and 37-year-old David Wesley Harper in 2022, court records reviewed by Law&Crime show.

As part of the plea deal, the prosecution “dismisse[d] all other charges in other courts,” the docket said.

Both Franco and Harper were deemed victims of homicide by experts in medical serial killings. The deceased had the muscle relaxant succinylcholine in their systems, which led investigators to believe that Hall had intentionally caused asphyxiation and fatal cardiac events. Additionally, doctors had not ordered or prescribed the drugs, investigators said.

“Because of Hall’s singular proximity to stricken patients, her access to pharmaceuticals which are deadly if misused, and her discovery and method of notifying staff of every patient’s cardiac emergency, nursing staff believed Hall was responsible for the patient deaths,” Chillicothe Police Officer Brian Schmidt reportedly wrote in the probable cause affidavit.

With the guilty pleas to involuntary manslaughter, however, Hall admitted only to recklessly causing two deaths — not intentionally causing the deaths. KHSB reported that the involuntary manslaughter charges involved the deaths of Coval Gann, a retired conservation agent and WWII veteran who died at 82 in March 2002, and Fern Franco — not David Harper. The Associated Press, citing the Kansas City Star, erroneously reported that Hall pleaded guilty in Harper’s death. Hall’s attorney Molly Hastings confirmed to Law&Crime that Gann and Franco are the victims in the involuntary manslaughter cases and that the case for Harper’s death was dismissed.

KTTN reported that the attempted assault charge related to the allegation that Hall put insulin in Norma Pearson’s “breathing treatment apparatus.” She died in 2011.

The patients were located at the Hedrick Medical Center in the city of Chillicothe, Missouri. Authorities said the facility saw an alarming rise in cardiac collapse incidents — 18 — while Hall worked there as a respiratory therapist from December 2001 to May 2002. Nine patients died, including Franco and Harper. Nursing staff apparently believed Hall was responsible for the patient deaths because she had access to the patients and the potentially deadly drugs. Her discovery and method of telling staff of every person’s cardiac emergency were also noticed, according to investigators.

Despite the string of deaths, Hall long maintained her innocence.

“Never,” she told The Kansas City Star in 2015, denying claims she harmed patients. “No, never.”

Jennifer Hall

Jennifer Anne Hall (L) in Johnson County Sheriff mugshot, (R) in a Clinton County jail mugshot, where she was listed under the name Jennifer Hall-Semaboye

“My name is just thrown out there, and it’s for horrifying reasons,” Hall said.

Defense attorney Hastings, attributing the murder charges to Monday morning quarterbacking, previously told Law&Crime that she looked forward to defending Hall in court, claiming the charges two decades after the patients’ deaths were not based on new evidence.

“I really don’t know why they elected to file now,” Hastings said. “Again, it’s not based on new evidence.”

After Hall’s May 2022 arrest in Kansas, where the divorcee was living, authorities in Livingston County, Missouri, booked her into jail under the name Jennifer Semaboye. Her choice of attire — an “I don’t f—ing care” hoodie — did not go unnoticed.

Jennifer Hall hoodie

Jennifer Anne Hall (Livingston County Sheriff’s Office)

Hall was placed on administrative leave and her employment at the hospital was over after Franco’s May 2002 death.

Her previous attorney Matthew O’Connor had called the murder charges “without merit whatsoever and based on conjecture and speculation.” He pointed to a “prior wrongful conviction” of Hall for setting a fire at another hospital. After being convicted of the charge in 2001, Hall successfully won her appeal and was acquitted at a second trial, the lawyer said.

“This case is based on the hindsight of people looking at issues in their own hospital and when Ms. Hall’s prior wrongful conviction came to their attention, they started pushing pieces toward her,” the lawyer told KCUR in 2022. “They’ve tried for years to find evidence and it didn’t even rise to the level of a civil case, which is a much lower standard. The Missouri Supreme Court has thrown this case out at a civil level.”

The state recommended that Hall’s sentences on the three admitted counts should run consecutively.

First-degree involuntary manslaughter is committed when a person “recklessly causes the death of another person.” The punishment for the Class C felony is 3 to 10 years. Second-degree attempted assault occurs when a person “Recklessly causes serious physical injury to another person.”

Jennifer Hall

Jennifer Hall, Livingston County Sheriff’s Office

Livingston County Prosecuting Attorney Adam Warren, who secured Hall’s convictions, said that Hall may serve up to 18 years behind bars.

“I’ve met with some of the families already,” the prosecutor reportedly told FOX 4 when questioned about the decision to dismiss remaining charges against Hall as part of a deal. “What I did tell them was that each case has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some of these cases, the witnesses are dead.

The prosecutor indicated the decision was a tough call.

“What’s justice in this situation? But what’s justice in this situation where Jennifer Hall walks free in an acquittal for some issue of an old case,” Warren added. “That’s haunted me, too.”

Alberto Luperon contributed to this report.

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.