May 29, 2010

By: Brian Fraga: link to article

DARTMOUTH — The family of the 100-year-old woman who was allegedly strangled last fall by her 98-year-old roommate at Brandon Woods of Dartmouth has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the defendant and the nursing home.

The 54-count civil lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Essex Superior Court. It names as defendants Scott Picone, executive director of Brandon Woods; several nursing home staff members; and Laura Lundquist, 98, who is charged with the Sept. 24 murder of Elizabeth W. Barrow.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of damages and alleges that Picone and nursing home staff were negligent by failing to provide a safe environment for Barrow, who was found just after 6 a.m., dead in her bed with a plastic bag wrapped around her head.

The lawsuit says an autopsy revealed that Barrow also suffered blunt force trauma to her left leg, arms, chest and skull. The official cause of death was strangulation by means of asphyxiation.

“What we know from the get-go is that this woman suffered a horrible death,” said attorney Suzanne McDonough at the Law Office of David J. Hoey in North Reading.


McDonough is representing the plaintiff, Scott W. Barrow, the victim’s son.

“This incident happened at a time when you would expect the facility would be fairly quiet. You would think this would have not gone unnoticed,” McDonough said.

“The folks charged with providing safety failed, and my (client’s mother) died.”

The lawsuit says: “As the direct and proximate result of the carelessness and negligence of the defendant, Scott Picone, the decedent, Elizabeth Barrow, was caused to suffer consciously up to and until her time of death.”

Picone said Friday morning he had not seen the lawsuit. He noted that the Department of Public Health conducted a 10-week investigation that cleared Brandon Woods of any wrongdoing. The Bristol County District Attorney’s Office also declined to file criminal charges against the nursing home.

“It’s a tragic incident that just happened to occur in our facilities,” Picone said.

In previous interviews, Scott Barrow complimented the treatment his mother received at Brandon Woods, even commenting that the nursing home staff “took such good care of her.”

In January, Scott Barrow sat with Picone at Brandon Woods at a luncheon where the nursing home donated $5,000 in Elizabeth Barrow’s memory to the Dartmouth Public Library to buy large-print books, which the victim enjoyed reading.

McDonough said Friday that Scott Barrow does not want to talk to any media.

Meanwhile, Lundquist, who is charged with second-degree murder and is believed to be the oldest murder defendant in Massachusetts history, is still undergoing a mental health evaluation at Taunton State Hospital.

Lundquist allegedly killed Barrow after weeks of harassing the victim and making her life a “living hell” because she was jealous of the visitors Barrow received and that Barrow’s bed had a better window view, authorities said.

Scott Barrow has said he asked Brandon Woods officials to separate the women. Picone said Barrow was twice offered the opportunity to change rooms but declined.

Picone also said Barrow and Lundquist acted like “sisters.” He said they took daily walks and ate lunch together and were heard on a nightly basis saying to each other: “Good night; I love you.”

Lundquist has been diagnosed as having dementia and paranoia. She will stand trial if she is found mentally competent.