Laura Lundquist has been charged with strangling Elizabeth Barrow in the Brandon Woods Nursing Home on Sept. 24. Lundquist was sent today to Taunton State Hospital for a competency evaluation prior to being arraigned.
Defense attorney Carl S. Levin filed a joint motion today in Bristol Superior Court with prosecutors requesting the psychiatric evaluation for Lundquist. The two-page document says that Lundquist's medical records show she "has a long standing diagnosis of dementia and exhibited other erratic behaviors. The records further revealed that the defendant herself had previously expressed concerns that another roommate would strangle her in her bed."
The evaluation could last up to 20 days and a court date has been set for Jan. 5.
"It is my expectation that she will be found not competent," Levin said this afternoon in a telephone interview from his office in Providence, R.I. "It's a very sad event," Levin said. "My client's family -- without acknowledging her responsibility for this act -- they feel great sadness for the family of Ms. Barrow."
The victim's son, Scott Barrow, said in a telephone interview this afternoon that he thinks it would be absurd for prosecutors to try Lundquist.
"I don't see how you can prosecute a 98-year-old woman," Scott Barrow said. "It's like prosecuting a 2-year-old. But it's not for me to decide. The law has to take its course."
He added: "I don't feel vengeful at all; I feel pity for her."
The joint motion filed in Bristol Superior Court also details the relationship between the two elderly women and describes, how just a short distance from a nurses' station, Lundquist was allegedly able to strangle and suffocate Barrow that morning within a window of 20 minutes. Staff found her body at 6:20 a.m. under a bed sheet with a plastic bag tied loosely around her head.
Lundquist "harbored hostility towards the victim because she believed the victim was taking over her room," according to the joint motion. "The defendant made statements prior to the victim's death that she would get the victim's bed by the window because she was going to out live her."
The night before staff found Barrow dead, she complained that Lundquist has placed a table at the foot of her bed that blocked her path to the bathroom, according to joint motion. A nurse's aide moved the table and Lundquist punched her. When staff discovered Barrow's body, the table had been moved back to the foot of her bed.
Lundquist told police she was in the bathroom when Barrow died and heard her scream, but she claimed she did not do anything because she was afraid she would get in trouble. Lundquist also claimed Barrow had "hurt her" and described her as a "sick woman," according to the joint motion.
Investigators initially thought that Barrow had committed suicide, but the results of an autopsy by the medical examiner found Barrow had been the victim of "asphyxia due to strangulation and suffocation."
Nursing home officials have said the two lived together for little more than a year. Picone said staff never received reports that Barrow felt threatened, but he said the tension in the 420-square-foot room -- their beds were separated by 4 feet -- prompted the staff to offer the women new rooms on July 29 and Aug. 5.
Scott Barrow said today he still doesn't know what could have motivated Lundquist. He added that she seemed to have all her mental faculties when he met her on visits to the nursing home.
"She seemed to be perfectly normal," he said. "She seemed lucid, and I had no idea she could be capable of such a thing. But you never know, I guess."
If Lundquist is tried and convicted, he said he would rather she was not incarcerated.
"It doesn't make any sense for her to do prison time," he said. "When you're that age, your faculties can come and go. You can be harmless in one moment and a psychopathic murderer in the next. I'm not a doctor, but the state has a difficult dilemma here. She's just a poor old lady who snapped."
Barrow has described his mother as healthy, amiable, and vigorous, a proud 5-foot-2 grandmother of three who was strong enough to walk on her own and read two books a week.
Aside from books, she loved to shop, chat with friends and staff at the nursing home, and eat the baked stuffed shrimp prepared with a recipe her husband of 65 years used to make for her before he died in 2007.
Barrow said today as much as he misses his mother, he does not seek vengeance.
"I feel very sorry her," Barrow said of Lundquist. "She's going through an ordeal of her own, whether or not she's competent to stand trial or not. It's going to be a terrible ordeal for her."