A former respiratory therapist has been charged with first-degree murder for the death of a patient 20 years ago at a hospital in Chillicothe, northern Missouri. A warrant has been issued to arrest 41-year-old Jennifer Anne Hall for the murder of Fern Franco, who died at Hendrick Medical Center in 2002.

The court documents revealed that Franco had been hospitalised with pneumonia. A nurse who was on duty with Hall found that the woman wasn't breathing, the nurse then gave her atropine and epinephrine to revive her but she could not be saved.

However, a coroner later found the presence of succinylcholine and morphine in the woman's body despite the fact that these substances were not included in her treatment plan.

Succinylcholine, used during intubation, would have paralyzed Franco's muscles and suffocated her to death while she remained conscious, according to a probable cause statement accessed by the Kansas City Star.

"Hall's victim was a sick, defenseless, elderly woman who was depending on Hall to care for her physical ailment within a medical facility," wrote Chillicothe Police Officer Brian Schmidt.

"The substance Hall used to brutally take Fern Franco's life ... paralyzes the victim's muscles, including the diaphragm, causing the victim to suffer a ghastly death from suffocation while still maintaining full consciousness."

Hall was placed on administrative leave three days after Franco's death. She was subsequently fired from the Hedrick Medical Center.

The probable cause statement further added that the number of cardiac emergencies at the hospitals had increased to 18 during her time there. The hospital used to average one incident a year before she joined as a respiratory therapist.

Nine of the 18 persons who suffered a cardiac arrest during Hall's time at the hospital eventually died. The other nurses at the hospital also believed that she was responsible for the patients' deaths "due to her proximity to them."

In an interview with The Kansas City Star in 2015, she had denied any wrongdoing in connection with the deaths. She had previously been convicted of setting fire to Cass Medical Center in Harrisonville, Missouri.

"My name is just thrown out there, and it's for horrifying reasons. I want my name to be cleared, yes. At the same time, I don't want my character destroyed," she had said at the time.

She was later acquitted at a retrial following a brief time in prison. Hall is not in custody at this time even though a warrant for her arrest had been issued last week.

Crime Scene
Crime scene police line | Representational Image Photo: GETTY IMAGES / SCOTT OLSON GETTY IMAGES/SCOTT OLSON