Charges laid after 72-year-old woman killed at Toronto seniors home
An elderly woman is dead, another in hospital and a man is facing murder and assault charges following an apparent attack at a seniors’ residence in Toronto last night.
Police say the attack happened at the Wexford Retirement Home on Lawrence Avenue near Pharmacy Avenue at around 11:15 p.m. When police arrived, they arrested a 72-year-old male resident of the home.
The 72-year-old woman -- identified as Joycelyn Dickson -- was pronounced dead at the scene. A 91-year-old woman was left with injuries to her face. She was taken to hospital and is expected to recover.
Peter Brooks has been charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault.
Brooks was remanded in custody during a court appearance Thursday afternoon. He is scheduled for another court appearance April 4, via video link.
Police are interviewing staff and other residents of the building to figure out what sparked the attack.
All three individuals lived in the home but it's not known what connection they had to one another.
Police also said they have seized one weapon that was allegedly used in the assaults, but have not said what type of weapon it is.
“There was an incident involving a male where two females were attacked. Unfortunately, one of the femles succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced here at the scene by EMS," Det. Sgt. Wayne Banks told reporters early Thursday morning.
Asked if dementia could have played a role in the attacks, Banks refused to speculate.
"It's something that we will definitely look into, but there is no information that we have presently at this time as to his state of mind or any physical or mental conditions that he has," he said.
Shaken residents and their family members are also raising concerns over security in the building.
Matthias Jetleb, whose mother lives on the building’s fifth floor, said there are no security guards working in the building.
“We’re concerned that level of staffing has been an issue,” Jetleb told CTV News. “And I’m concerned that this may have been something that highlights that because really, I have to ask how two people could be assaulted without someone stepping in.”
CTV contacted Wexford to find out how many staff members were working in the area where the attack took place, but the officials declined to comment, citing the ongoing police investigation.
The Wexford Residence is a non-profit, charitable facility founded by an arm of the Church of the Christian Brotherhood.
Violence in retirement and nursing homes is a growing problem, as many seniors live longer and require long-term care that their families simply cannot provide.
An investigation into resident-on-resident abuse in long-term care homes by CTV’s W5 earlier this year found that such attacks are more common than many think. The probe found that more than 10,000 violent “incidents” in care homes are reported across Canada each year.
The data was obtained after W5 filed access to information requests about resident attacks with 38 provincial and regional health authorities.
The incidents included everything from verbal threats, to pushing, slapping, punching, choking, sexual assaults and homicide.
Lynn McDonald, the director the University of Toronto’s Institute for Life Course and Aging, told W5 that the issue of resident-to-resident abuse in nursing and retirement homes is little studied in Canada.
She said she believes the actual number of incidents is likely much higher, because many facilities might under-report such events.
Miranda Ferrier, the president of the Ontario Personal Support Workers’ Association, said a major contributing factor to controlling violence in nursing homes is the ratio of staff to residents. She says it’s not uncommon to have one personal support worker on a floor of 25 residents.
Ferrier said that in her experience, many aggressive acts occur at night, during moments of “sundowning," a psychological phenomenon in which those with dementia experience increased confusion and restlessness in the early evening hours.
In Manitoba, an inquest is set to begin soon into the 2011 death of Frank Alexander, 87.Alexander, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, was fatally assaulted at a seniors’ residence in Winnipeg and died four days later.
Police determined that another resident with Alzheimer's disease had pushed Alexander down during an argument. That resident, Joseph McLeod, 70, was charged with manslaughter but found unfit to stand trial.
The inquest is due to explore the events leading to the death to determine what, if anything, could be done to help prevent similar deaths.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s John Musselman and with files from The Canadian Press