Saturday, June 21, 2014
BOSTON (AP) — Nearly five years after a woman was charged with killing her 100-year-old roommate in a Massachusetts nursing home, a second-degree murder charge is still pending against her at the age of 102.
Laura Lundquist, diagnosed with dementia, was deemed incompetent to stand trial after she was charged with strangling Elizabeth Barrow, who was found in her bed with a plastic bag tied around her head.
Since then, the oldest murder defendant in the state's history has been held at a psychiatric hospital. Prosecutors say they don't expect the case to ever go to trial, but just in case, the murder charge remains on the books.
Barrow's son, Scott, says he has never pushed for Lundquist to be prosecuted.
"It would be like prosecuting a 2-year-old," he said in an interview Thursday. "It's just an awful thing that happened. How could she be held accountable for this when she's not in her right mind?"
After Lundquist was indicted in 2009 at age 98, Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter said prosecutors pursued a second-degree murder charge because they didn't believe Lundquist had the cognitive ability to form premeditation, which must be proven in a first-degree murder case.
Sutter's spokesman, Gregg Miliote, said the case remains open.
"Ms. Lundquist was deemed incompetent to stand trial, and we are told that is unlikely to change," Miliote said. "However, the court is updated on her competency every three months ... and if her competency to stand trial should change, the matter would move forward in the courts."
Scott Barrow is hoping a wrongful-death lawsuit he filed against the nursing home, its owners and operators will eventually be heard by a jury. In 2012, an arbitrator ruled in favor of the nursing home and found no negligence.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court heard arguments in the case in April and is expected to rule soon on whether it can go to trial.
Lundquist, in her paranoia, believed Elizabeth Barrow was trying to take over the room they shared at the nursing home, Sutter said after she was indicted. Lundquist told Barrow she would soon get her bed by the window because she would outlive her, he said.
Scott Barrow said he had asked nursing home staff to separate his mother and Lundquist, but they assured him the two were getting along. He said his mother did not want to leave the room because she and her husband had lived there together before he died in 2007.
Lundquist's lawyer, Carl Levin, declined to comment on Lundquist or her health, citing the ongoing criminal case and health care privacy laws.
After Lundquist was charged, Scott Picone, then the nursing home's chief of operations, said the two women had been offered room changes twice in the months before Barrow's death but both declined. He said the two women were friendly toward each other and often said "goodnight" and "I love you."
Picone did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday. Peter Knight, a lawyer representing Picone and other nursing home officials in Barrow's lawsuit, also did not immediately return a call.