Woman accused of helping WWII vet kill himself
Prosecutor: 'Absolutely under no circumstances, does she have a right to assist a man, a flawed man – a man who served his country – commit suicide. To me, it’s very offensive; forget about the fact that is also illegal.'
One of them, a casual acquaintance who was part of a group of seniors who sipped coffee together at a Laguna Niguel Starbucks, took him up on it.
On Wednesday morning, Elizabeth Barrett, 65, was arrested at her home in Laguna Woods on suspicion of advising and assisting in a suicide. She faces a potential sentence of 16 months, two or three years, if convicted at trial.
Two circumstances about this case trouble Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh, a veteran homicide prosecutor who is handling the case.
First, Koency was not gravely ill or close to death, medically speaking.
Second, the defendant is 65 and has never been in trouble with the law before – not even so much as a traffic ticket.
Koency had been having some emotional problems, and apparently decided that he wanted to end his life, Baytieh said.
A few months ago, Koency was also involved in a minor traffic collision that shattered his confidence behind the wheel. Instead of re-taking the driver's test, Koency sent a letter to the California Department of Motor Vehicles to say thanks for giving him the privilege of driving.
A few days later, Koency ran into an acquaintance he had not seen for awhile – Barrett – who used to drink coffee with the group at Starbucks.
Apparently, he mentioned to her – again – that he didn't want to live anymore. "And she offered to help," Baytieh said.
On the day he died, Barrett volunteered to drive Koency to The Neptune Society to make final arrangements for his remains. And then she drove to a store and bought him yogurt, brandy, and an over-the-counter medication for acid reflux, Baytieh said. In other words, it keeps food down when the body wants to reject it.
Barrett and Koency then returned to his apartment, where she crushed what is believed to be a strong painkiller into powder and meshed it into the yogurt, Baytieh said. Koency than ate the yogurt, drank the brandy and retired to his bedroom.
The woman took Koency's military medals from the wall of his apartment, placed them in her car, and waited for awhile before checking on Koency to see he was dead, Baytieh said.
And when he was, Barrett immediately called the Neptune Society, where someone told her she needed to call 911 instead to report a death. Sheriff's investigators found Koency dead in his bed.
Barrett later told investigators that Koency died by himself and she found him that way when she went to check on him, according to Orange County Sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino. An autopsy revealed that Koency died from the combined effects of the drugs oxycodone, fluoxetine and alprazolam, Amormino said.
Koency's paranoia before he died led to sheriff's investigators questioning Barrett's story that she had nothing to do with his death, Baytieh said.
Before he died, Koency added a motion-activated surveillance camera system to his apartment – and it recorded Barrett crushing the drugs and placing it in the yogurt, Baytieh said.
"At first she says she didn't help him, but when sheriff's investigators confront her with the video, she changes her story and tells us that he couldn't swallow his medication and she was helping him," Baytieh said. "She claimed she didn't know what the medication was for."
Sheriff's investigators and prosecutors do not believe her.
Baytieh contends that Barrett, who claimed to be a social worker, acted out of an exaggerated sense of self-importance and arrogance, thinking that she knew what was right for Koency.
"Absolutely under no circumstances, does she have a right to assist a man, a flawed man – a man who served his country – commit suicide," Baytieh said. "To me, it’s very offensive; forget about the fact that is also illegal."
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