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ELLISVILLE, MO (KTVI) – A former Ellisville nurse is charged with stealing morphine from nursing home patients, while diluting their doses with water and mouthwash.

On August 5th, Ellisville police took 27 year-old Christi Franklin into custody.  She was immediately fired from her job at Bethesda Meadows, a nursing community.  However, she not remain in custody while police worked on building the case.  Fast forward several months, and St. Louis County prosecutors have now charged Franklin with Stealing a Controlled Substance, a Class C Felony.

According to Ellisville Police Sgt. Nancy Walker, Franklin was diverting morphine from patients at Bethesda Meadows between April and July 2013.

Walker says Franklin’s colleagues got suspicious when they noticed that some morphine doses didn’t smell or look right.  An internal investigation was quickly launched, and the Missouri State Board of Nursing was notified.  All signs quickly pointed to Franklin after she was caught administering the odd-looking morphine doses, and some of her patients started complaining.

Pharmacist Michelle Chesnut with Ladue Pharmacy explains, “If they don’t get the full dose, they’re obviously not getting their pain levels controlled.  Doctors can’t manage the pain level in the patient’s response appropriately, since they don’t know they’re not getting the correct dose.”

At first, the 27 year-old nurse denied the allegations, but ultimately confessed to stealing morphine and using it herself. In some cases, she admitted to diluting her patients’ meds with water and mouthwash.

Addiction specialist Dan Duncan with the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse has a hunch Franklin was already hooked on a similar substance, because morphine is very hard to come by.  The powerful painkiller is chemically related to opium, heroin, and various potent painkillers.

In response to the charges facing Franklin, Bethesda Health Group Marketing Director Jeff Waldman says, “Background checks are performed on each of our employees prior to hire…We are confident that this was an isolated incident that was quickly identified and rectified.”

Luckily, it seems no patients were seriously harmed, but the handful of residents and families who may have been impacted were notified.

Franklin had been employed at Bethesda since August 2011.  According to police reports, there’s no indication that she was breaking the law until April of last year.