‘Old Friends’-The Brandon Woods Nursing Home Homicide

“Old friends, Old friends. Sat on their park bench like bookends. Old friends, Memory brushes the same years. Silently sharing the same fear…” Old Friends-Simon & Garfunkel

A nursing assistant found the body of Elizabeth Barrow at 6:20 AM on September 24th, with a bedsheet pulled over her head. Just 20 minutes earlier, staff had seen her return to her bed after making a trip to the bathroom. (Woman, 98, indicted on murder charges-The Boston Globe-December 12, 2009 by David Abel and Shelley Murphy)

When they pulled up the sheet, Elizabeth Barrow was dead; she had a Wal-Mart plastic shopping bag loosely tied around her head. Initially investigators thought it was a suicide, but the medical examiner found that Barrow died of “asphyxia due to strangulation and suffocation.” (In nursing home slaying, only questions-The Boston Globe-October 9, 2009 by David Abel and John R. Ellement)

Laura Lundquist had told police that she was in the bathroom when she heard Barrow scream. She did not react or tell one of the nursing staff anything because she was afraid that she would get in trouble. Lundquist had said that Barrow had “hurt her” and described her as a “sick woman.” (ditto-The Boston Globe-December 12th)

On December 11th a grand jury indicted Laura Lundquist, 98, on charges of second-degree murder, purportedly by her strangling of and suffocating of Elizabeth Barrow, in their room on September 24th. The two were roommates at the Brandon Woods Nursing Home in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. (ditto-The Boston Globe-December 12th)


Lundquist did, however, make an incriminating statement after she had been put in another room. Laura had seen a similar white plastic bag, such as the one found on Barrow’s head, and she had snidely muttered to her new roommate, “I hope I don’t have to use that.” (ditto-The Boston Globe-December 12th)

Other evidence that points towards Lundquist as the perpetrator of this killing, is that she placed a table at the foot of Barrow’s bed to block her entrance to the bathroom. A nurse’s aide had removed the table and an angry Lundquist had punched out the aide saying that Barrow “might as well have the whole room.”

Oddly enough, the table had been returned to its position as an obstruction to walking; it was placed near the bed, and was found there when the body was discovered. (Laura Lundquist, 98, Accused of Killing Elizabeth Barrow, 100, Roommate in Nursing Home-The Huffington Post-December 18th, 2009)

Other bits and pieces of incriminating evidence can be added to the pile. Barrow complained to the nursing home officials that Lundquist was making her life “a living hell.” Laura had complained that Elizabeth had received too many visitors. The room is only 420 square feet and their beds were merely separated by 4 feet. The tiny room was seemingly bristling with tension.

Lundquist was sent to Taunton State Hospital for a competency evaluation before her arraignment. Carl Levin, her defense attorney, said “she has a long-standing diagnosis of dementia, as well as issues of cognitive impairment.” (ditto-The Huffington Post-December 18th)

The Brandon Woods Nursing Home has painted a rosier picture in a statement about the elderly roommates, who had lived together for a little more than one year. They claim that the roommates acted like sisters, walked and ate lunch together daily, and said, “Goodnight, I love you,” to each other every night.

brandon woods nursing home

The authorities had attempted an intervention, a separation of the two, but Barrow had declined this offer, since she had shared this room with her husband, Raymond Barrow, who had died in 2007. It’s claimed that Laura had her eye on her ‘adversary’s’ bed, which was near a window with sunlight.

Scott Barrow, the only child of Elizabeth, has expressed befuddlement regarding Lundquist’s conceivable motive. “She seemed to be perfectly normal,” he said. “She seemed lucid.” (ditto-The Boston Globe-December 12th)

Just to rewind the tape a bit-and I believe this sheds light on the case-Scott Barrow had provided some biographical data on his mother, to reporters back in early October. Scott clearly has a high regard for his mother, and paints a robust portrait of Mrs. Barrow’s earlier days.

Her family roots date back to the second voyage of the Mayflower in the 1630s. In the 1930s Elizabeth had attended the New Bedford Textile Institute and was a teacher there. She was later crowned Miss Rayon and was a spokeswoman for the rayon textile industry. (ditto-The Boston Globe-October 9th)

After that she became a skilled cafeteria worker for Dartmouth public schools. Miss Rayon then became known as “the dessert lady.” It seems as if she made a perfect apple crisp, which would sell out rapidly whenever she baked it. “She was a wonderful cook.”

Also, Barrow was an avid reader and totally loved books. Her son Scott has stated that she would read one book a day when in her prime. Her preference was mainly murder mysteries. You may see irony in this. In recent years she had cut back to just two murder mysteries per week.

The tragedy of Elizabeth Barrow’s death is underscored by the wonderful party given for her 100th birthday; this just happened last August. The grandchildren, Scott and his mother feasted on her favorite, baked stuffed shrimp, an original recipe of her late husband.

Please look meticulously at this widely disseminated photograph, taken by Scott, of Barrow with a big smile, a cuddly teddy bear and her gorgeous centenarian birthday cake. This is a touching Kodak moment that projects the tragedy of this misfortune all the more.

Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter is showing discretion in this case. He is only seeking second-degree murder charges, since it’s not believed that the elderly Lundquist, who suffers from dementia, is capable of premeditation. Premeditation would need to be proven before first-degree charges could be pressed. Therefore, this must have been a ‘crime of passion.’ A homicidal impulse must have come over Laura.

But much of the evidence points to a great amount of forethought on her part, in the sense of a build-up of anger, perhaps by way of jealousy towards Mrs. Barrows’ popularity, or all the attention she garnered from loved ones or rest home acquaintances. After all, she was a former Miss Rayon.

A statement of Scott Barrow’s is telling. “My mother was a peacemaker. Nobody could have imagined anything like this would happen. She was a wonderful, outgoing person, who was very happy with life. She loved to be with other people, and she loved to be at the nursing home.” (ditto-The Boston Globe-October 9th)

I believed that Laura did love or at least admire Elizabeth tremendously, but she herself was virtually alone. When she saw Mrs. Barrow’s getting pampered and adored so much by everyone around her, she accumulated resentments, and festering jealousies that consumed her and surfaced in presentiments of homicidal hostility and rage.

Although she was possessed with short-comings in her mental faculties, her physical abilities (agilities), ie her strength, the very vitality of her hand grip, was such that she could easily strangle the poor sleeping centenarian to death. Laura may not have been entirely cognizant of what she had done.

This is mere speculation, but I further believe that some demons of the past suddenly surfaced in Laura’s feeble mind on that morning of September 24th. Possibly, some horrific event from her childhood, that had been simmering, a boiling cancer that was buried away for some 90 years.

A morbid rage was instantly triggered by a small physical event, like the moving of the table over by the bed, or a scratching of a black cat on a windowpane.

Perhaps hypnosis could be performed on Lundquist at Taunton State Hospital. Then these memories could be traced, unleashing hellions that so haunted the elderly lady for so many years.

I do think that she must have had a seed of this darkness, an embryo, a tumor of evil lingering in her subconscious, that sat idle from the remotest days of her infancy. But then once more, it springs forth like a black panther in the night! The trigger was but a trifle.

This is what is so scary about this case. The District Attorney, C. Samuel Sutter, has alluded to a troubling pattern, an increase of cases where the murder suspect is older than 80. He believes that it will only escalate in the years to come.

The Golden Years are intended for idleness, fond memories of our life-long achievements and passive pass times, games like Chinese Checkers and Parcheesi. Maybe a little Bingo and some Shuffle Board comes to mind. This is why we are so intrigued, so shocked by this case.

Oddly enough, in this case the final days are rife with unsavory violence, behavior usually associated with ‘youth gangs’ and the criminal element. No more! Gratuitous violence can go down in a Rest Home nowadays.

Yet there were warning signs. And it’s been noted that Brandon Woods got some unsatisfactory inspection marks, but nothing was ever done about it. And so I will cry alone today as I look sadly on Scott Barrow’s perfect, Kodak moment once more.

The Upshot: “Time it was, And what a time it was, it was…A time of confidences. Long ago…it must be…I have a photograph. Preserve your memories; they’re all that’s left you.” Bookends Theme-Simon & Garfunkel