Alzheimer’s Patients Who Kill: Uncommon, But Not Impossible

An elderly Colorado man with sixth-stage Alzheimer’s disease has been charged in the beating death of another dementia patient in a Lakewood, Colorado, nursing home, the Huffington post reports.

According to the Denver Channel, an altercation occurred Saturday between 87-year-old Homer Castor and his 76-year-old roommate, Gerald Propp, at Atria Applewood assisted living facility. According to the affidavit, Castor said he attacked Propp because he believed the victim was planning to hurt him. The fight resulted in Propp being hospitalized and Castor charged with second degree assault. He is now being held on suspicion of first degree murder after the victim in the attack succumbed to his injuries on Monday, the Los Angeles Timesreports.

The Castor case isn’t the first in which an Alzheimer’s patient faced murder charges. As ABC News reported, 71-year-old Carolyn Krizan-Wilson was handed a six-month prison sentence in 2013 for the murder of her husband. Though fully coherent at the time of the murder, Krizan-Wilson was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s when she was sentenced – 30 years after the homicide. Defense attorney Stafford James said considering “her age and medical condition, all sides realized this was probably the right decision.”

Last December, 80-year-old Thomas Sreeve Peterson, also an Alzheimer’s sufferer, was arrested in the murder of his 82-year-old wife. Peterson’s attorney, David Macher, said he had doubts about his client’s ability to knowingly commit such an act, Patch reports.

And in 2010, 70-year-old Loretta Luttrell was arrested for her husband’s murder the day of his burial. Family members insisted that she couldn’t be held responsible due to her moderate Alzheimer’s, CBS reported.

Despite these cases, violent outbursts are not commonly associated with dementia. Speaking on the Luttrell case, geriatrics physician Dr. David Henry said that planning and committing a murder requires mental capacities Alzheimer’s patients would typically lack. “They might have Alzheimer’s, but they would not be impaired to the extent they couldn’t function. They’re pretty high functioning,” Dr. Henry told CBS.

Speaking to the Press Enterprise, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association California Southland Chapter Susan Galeas claimed she’d never heard of an Alzheimer’s patient committing murder. The disease can cause “significant behavioral changes — including aggression and paranoia” she said, and this usually in the more advanced stages. “When people are having trouble with certain cognitive processing, it can frustrate them,” she said.

Homer Castor is scheduled to be in court March 2 for an advisement of charges, the Los Angeles Timesreports.

Photo Credit: USA Today