Update: Hospital spokesman says nurse discovered injection that led to Johnson City pharmacist's arrest on attempted murder charge

Becky Campbell • Feb 13, 2014 at 5:15 PM

A local pharmacist has been arrested for allegedly trying to kill his wife by injecting her with a medication to lower blood sugar while she was a patient at the Johnson City Medical Center, and police indicated it likely wasn’t the first time.

It was a nurse’s quick action that revealed the incident, according to a police report and Mountain States Health Alliance spokesman Shane O’Hare.

Lee Scott Renfro, 51, 15 South Hills Circle, was arrested several hours after police were called to Johnson City Medial Center on a medical investigation about 3 a.m. Wednesday. He was charged with attempted first-degree murder of his wife, 49-year-old Martha Renfro.

According to the warrant, Renfro is suspected of injecting his wife with Victoza, described as a medication that lowers a person’s blood sugar by stimulating the pancreas, which then releases insulin. A syringe with that label was found in Martha Renfro’s hospital room, and the nurse discovered his patient had a small drop of blood on her leg which appeared to be coming from a small puncture wound. Scott Renfro was the only other person in the room, police said.

Renfro is a Johnson City pharmacist and works at West Towne Pharmacy on West Market Street, according to the business’ website.

The warrant indicates that Renfro “doesn’t remember doing it,” and when a nurse initially confronted him, he denied he had injected his wife with the medication.

District Attorney General Tony Clark, who has been involved in the investigation since about mid day Wednesday, said Martha Renfro had been hospitalized three times in the past few weeks with similar symptoms.

The warrant indicates low blood sugar, which previously has caused Martha to lose consciousness, was the reason for those hospital stays.

“It was a prescription medication. It is not something you can get over the counter,” he said about Victoza. “We don’t know whose medication it is. We don’t know where it came from.”

Clark said toxicology tests are being performed to determine what medications were in the woman’s system.

“This is still a wide open investigation. I can’t go into details about the investigation because of some things that were said that we have to check up on,” he said. Those things include obtaining Martha Renfro’s medical records from different health care facilities as well as searching the couple’s home.

According to O’Hare, Martha Renfro’s nurse saw something suspicious while her husband was in her hospital room.

“We did have a team member report there appeared to be something injected into the patient. I don’t have any greater detail,” O’Hare said.

According to the police report, Martha Renfro’s nurse walked by her room and saw the patient jump, then her blood pressure went up.

The nurse, James Branham, confronted Lee Scott Renfro and later told police the man had been standing beside his wife but moved away right as her heart rate jumped up.

“Branham entered the room and asked the victim if she was okay to which she replied that her husband had pinched her on the leg. Branham checked her leg and found that there was a small drop of blood on her thigh and what appeared to be a small puncture wound,” Investigator Mark Stout wrote in the affidavit of complaint.

The nurse asked Lee Scott Renfro if he had done anything to his wife, and the man said he had not. Branham went to get another nurse and when he came back he saw something — which turned out to be a syringe — under a blanket on Lee Scott Renfro’s lap. He took it from the patient’s husband and saw it was a syringe labeled Victoza.

“The victim stated, ‘Honey, you don’t take that,’ and then she started to cry,” Stout wrote.

While the source of the medication is still under investigation, O’Hare said the patient’s husband would not have had access to any pharmaceutical at the hospital.

“A lay person does not have access to anything in the hospital. All medications are locked up. The individual was in a unique position in that he had access to other things,” O’Hare said, referring to Renfro’s occupation as a pharmacist.

After the nurse found the syringe, he called police and that led to Renfro’s arrest. During questioning, Renfro told police “he must have been the one who injected her because he was the only one in the room with her, but he doesn’t remember doing it,” Stout wrote in the warrant.

Clark said he was unaware of any domestic problems between the Renfros, but that also was part of the investigation.

Renfro remained in jail Thursday on a $100,000 bond. He was scheduled for arraignment Friday, but the Washington County Justice Center will be closed due to the weather.


Earlier report posted at 9:35 a.m.:

Police said a Johnson City man injected his wife with medicine in the hospital, resulting in his arrest on an attempted murder charge.

Lee Scott Renfro, 51, 15 South Hills Circle, was arrested after police were called to Johnson City Medial Center on a medical investigation about 3 a.m. Wednesday.

The staff told police a patient had possibly been injected with an unknown substance by a family member. The investigation indicated the Renfro had injected the victim, Martha Renfro, with an unknown quantity of medicine. She had been treated for the past several weeks for an unknown condition that required her to be hospitalized on three different occasions.

Charged with attempted first-degree murder, Renfro was jailed in the Washington County Detention Center on $100,000 bond pending a Sessions Court appearance Friday.

Renfro is a pharmacist at West Towne Pharmacy on West Market Street in Johnson City.

Keep visiting JohnsonCityPress.com for more details on this developing story as they become available.

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