Dementia Patient Charged In Death

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WEATHERLY – A nursing home resident is now charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly attacking another resident who ended up dying.

Any caregiver will tell you that people who suffer from dementia can have behavior that is restless, unpredictable, and disorganized.

Police felt justified charging a dementia patient for allegedly causing deadly injuries to another dementia patient. It happened at a nursing home in Carbon County.

Carl Smith was arraigned Friday on several charges including involuntary manslaughter.  He's a dementia patient and is accused of causing the death of another dementia patient, Margaret Lechleitner, 85.

Police say it all began at Weatherwood Nursing Home in Weatherly last month, when Smith pushed the woman. She fell, her head hit the floor, and she later died.

Carl Smith said he has a message to the victim's family.

"I made a mistake. I made a mistake. I pushed them."

"Why did you push her?"

"Well, she pushed me first and I pushed back."

Police say there's no evidence that Margaret, the victim, pushed Smith.

Sgt. Mike Bogart said the case is difficult.

"Everyone I talked to said this is uncharted waters, it is. Everybody has said they have never seen anything like this, it`s difficult all the way around."

Estella Parker-Lillian is with the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

"Never in my 10 years have I seen this kind of situation, with an arrest or a situation where a dementia patient has caused the demise of another," Parker-Lillian explained.

Sgt. Bogart said the case is a balancing act.

"We want to make sure that the victim's family gets what they want. We want to make sure in the future that everybody around Carl is safe and want to make sure that Carl is going to get treatment and care."

Carl Smith has dementia and because of that, police officials aren't really sure if the charges will ever go to trial.  That could be up to experts and a judge to decide.

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