NEW BEDFORD, Mass. – A 98-year-old woman was indicted Friday on a second-degree murder charge that alleges she strangled her 100-year-old roommate in a nursing home.
Laura Lundquist was sent to a state mental hospital for a competency evaluation before she is arraigned on the murder charge. Her attorney, Carl Levin, said she has a "long-standing diagnosis of dementia, as well as issues of cognitive impairment."
The body of Elizabeth Barrow, with a plastic bag tied around her head, was found in her bed at a nursing home on Sept. 24. Police speculated initially it was a suicide, but a medical examiner ruled it a homicide after an autopsy indicated strangulation.
Barrow's son, Scott Barrow, has said Lundquist complained to nursing home officials about the number of visitors his mother received. He also said Lundquist had made "threatening" and "harassing" remarks to her.
He declined to comment on the indictment, which was handed up Friday by a Bristol grand jury.
The two women had been roommates for about a year. Barrow has said he asked nursing home officials to separate the women, but they assured him the two were getting along. He said his mother told him she did not want to leave her room because that's where she and her husband had lived for several years before he died in 2007.
A Superior Court judge, acting on a motion filed jointly by prosecutors and Levin, ordered Lundquist sent to Taunton State Hospital for an evaluation. Levin said that if someone is found not competent to stand trial, the state would likely move for a civil commitment.
"Her family is very saddened for the loss of Ms. Barrow, and they are also very saddened by what's happened," Levin said. "Without acknowledging her responsibility, it's a sad event for both families. It just really points to the issue of mental health with the elderly."