Elizabeth Barrow, 100, went to bed at the nursing home where she lived, savoring a meal shared with her son at her favorite restaurant.
About 7 the next morning, staff doing routine checks at the nursing home found the previously healthy woman dead, with a plastic bag over her head.
Investigators initially thought she had committed suicide, but the results of an autopsy released Wednesday by the medical examiner found that Barrow was the victim of “asphyxia due to strangulation and suffocation.”
At a press conference outside the downtown courthouse, the district attorney called the Sept. 24 killing shocking and inhumane.
“It’s a terrible tragedy, as are all homicides,’’ he said. “Is there some acuteness because of her age? I would say yes. This is an extremely unusual case.’’ He declined to say whether investigators had identified a suspect.
But a person briefed by investigators said police were looking into reports that Barrow’s 96-year-old roommate at the nursing home had repeatedly complained that Barrow had more visitors than she did and had threatened to kill Barrow if she and her guests continued to disturb her. Neither the roommate’s name nor her whereabouts could be confirmed yesterday.
In a telephone interview, Scott Barrow described his mother as hale, jovial, and full of life, a proud 5-foot-2 grandmother of three who was fit enough to walk on her own and read two books a week. Ironically, he said, her favorite books were murder mysteries.
“My mother was a peacemaker,’’ he said. “Nobody could have imagined anything like this would happen. She was a wonderful, outgoing person, who was very happy with life. She loved to be with other people, and she loved to be at the nursing home.’’
He said she never told him that she had been directly threatened by her roommate, but he knew of the tension. His mother had apparently complained on multiple occasions to staff at the nursing home, he said.
“She didn’t want to upset me with any of these details,’’ he said.
Nursing home officials declined to comment on the allegations.
He said Barrow had lived at the nursing home for 4 1/2 years. She was one of 118 residents at the facility, which has received average ratings for the quality of its services and above-average ratings for the ratio of staff to residents, according to a Medicare survey updated last month. For more, read the story.
Robert W. Carter,
Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to
protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted
living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg,
Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.