Man with Alzheimer's allegedly beats, kills other patient

LAKEWOOD - An 87-year-old man with Alzheimer's disease is facing murder charges for allegedly beating a 76-year-old man also suffering from the disease to death.

According to court records, Homer Castor was first facing assault charges after he beat Gerald Propp over the weekend.

Propp later died from his injuries.

Both men lived at Atria Applewood, a senior-living facility in Lakewood.

Records show 10 days prior to Saturday's assault, Atria Applewood documented an incident between Castor and Propp "which resulted in superficial scratches on the back of Propp's neck."

Castor first appeared in Jefferson County court on Monday on assault charges stemming from the Saturday incident.

The court ordered a competency evaluation at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo.

Castor appeared in court Tuesday on murder charges. The Jefferson County District Attorney has not formally charged him.

According to court records, police responded to Atria Applewood at about 6 a.m. Saturday.

Propp was being taken away by ambulance. It appeared he'd suffered serious injuries to his face and the left side of his brain.

Court records say one of the nurses heard screaming in the room and saw Castor walking away from Propp's bed. The nurse said Castor made a comment: "If he says one more word, I'm going to kill him."

When police interviewed Castor, he told them he thought the victim had come over in the night "to beat him up." Castor told police he thought the victim "went back to bed and pretended to be asleep." According to court records, Castor admitted to assaulting Propp. "He was also difficult to understand," the report says.

"Homer knew he had a wife, but could not tell me her name," the report said.

Castor's wife told police he had sixth stage Alzheimer's and suffered from dementia. She also told police Castor had to be reminded to use the bathroom and to drink liquids.

According to court records, the victim's wife told police she was taking a walk with both men at the facility three weeks ago, when Castor made a comment: "He makes me so mad I want to punch him out."

Records also say Castor's wife told police she spoke to her husband who told her the victim had been hitting him. It's not unclear when this happened, aside from the Feb. 11 incident that's mentioned in the arrest affidavit.

"Carole [Castor] asked Homer [Castor] if he hit Gerald [Propp] and Homer responded 'I let him have it,'" according to the report.

Castor also told police she noticed a "mental decline in Homer specifically issues with remembering names starting about three years prior." Records say Castor's wife told investigators her husband was diagnosed with "sundowners."

The victim's wife told police she thought Castor was talking about Propp, since they were walking together.

Propp's wife told police her husband was in the fourth stage of Alzheimer's.

Atria Applewood released a statement saying, "We were saddened to learn of the death of one of our residents. We extend our deepest sympathy to his family.

Ensuring the safety and well-being of our residents is our highest priority. We are cooperating fully with the police and the Department of Public Health and Environment as they continue to review the circumstances of the incident. We are committed to taking all necessary steps to ensure that our residents continue to feel safe and protected in our community."

Shannon Gimbel, ombudsman program manager for the Area Agency on Aging, part of the Denver Regional Council of Governments, says the agency has received complaints about Atria Applewood in the past.

Ombudsmen are advocates for residents who live in long term care facilities. They investigate complaints on behalf of residents and families. The program can provide guidance to anyone seeking information about selecting a long term care facility.

Gimbel couldn't give 9NEWS a specific number of complaints against Atria Applewood, but said the facility serves mostly Alzheimer's patients. The complaints the Ombudsman received about Atria were about the facility not having enough staff to care for residents. But the agency also received this sort of a complaint about many assisted living facilities.

Gimbel said there is no regulation mandating these facilities to have a certain employee-resident ratio.

The regulation only states, "you'll provide enough staff to meet residents' needs."

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Gimbel said Atria Applewood is part of the private sector assisted living facilities that takes on people who need a lot of care, but they are not subject to federal regulation like nursing homes, for instance.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment licenses, inspects and investigates complaints for nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state.

The department has a search engine where consumers can look up the name of the facility and then look up complaints.

Here is the information available on the website for Atria Applewood: http://bit.ly/1zEtYZI

The Department will conduct an investigation into the incident. You can read the full statement from CDPHE below:

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment learned today of the tragic death of a resident of Atria Applewood and will conduct an investigation of facility practices after law enforcement has conducted their investigation. The assisted living facility reported the incident in a timely manner. The Health Facilities and Emergency Medical Services Division of CDPHE - which is responsible for the licensing of health care facilities – will conduct the investigation. Information specific to this situation cannot be released until after the investigation is completed. Understanding that the care of cognitively impaired persons is a highly specialized part of the health care system, the Department is committed to ensuring that all appropriate standards are met by the provider community.

Castor's mug shot is not currently available.

9NEWS left numerous messages for both families, but hasn't heard back.

(KUSA-TV © 2015 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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