Death of woman, 98, at nursing home ruled homicide

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015
ME rules homicide in nursing home death
'I sent my mother to Holland Home to be cared for,' Sandra Byrd Peterson said. 'I didn't send her there to be murdered.'

SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (WLS) -- The death of 98-year-old Dorothy Byrd at Holland Home, an assisted living facility in south suburban South Holland, was ruled a homicide. Now two other deaths are under investigation.

Byrd had a toxic level of painkillers in her system when she died Feb. 4, according to the medical examiner. Tests showed she died from an overdose of morphine and hydrocodone combined with high blood pressure and heart disease.

"It was a nurse, who, intentionally, provided Dorothy Byrd and others, as we understand it, with morphine, which was never prescribed for Dorothy Byrd, and hydrocodone," Thomas Paris, Byrd family attorney.

On the morning of Feb. 3, six residents of Holland Home suddenly fell ill. They were taken to the hospital with what has been described as a "non-life threatening illness."

Three of those patients died: Byrd; Leon Krynicki, 98; and Robert Rundin, 88. Toxicology tests are pending for Krynicki and Rundin. Krynicki's death is being investigated by the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office because he died at an Illinois hospital. Rundin died after being taken to an Indiana hospital.

"We're continuing to cooperate closely with local law enforcement's ongoing investigation and are referring all questions to them until that's concluded. Our own internal investigation is also ongoing, consistent with our commitment to provide quality resident care," David Mills, of Holland Home, said in a statement.

"I can't express my feelings. I'm sad. I'm just very upset. I wonder, myself, why?" Sandra Byrd Peterson, daughter, said.

Byrd had two daughters, one of whom preceded her in death, and was married for 60 years before her husband's death.

Byrd Peterson said her mother had dementia, but her mind and memory were clear occasionally. She was generally able-bodied for a woman of her age, Byrd Peterson said.

Byrd completed nursing school at age 21. At age 48, she graduated from the University Hospital School of Nursing as an R.N. and she practiced as a nurse for many years. At age 58, she completed her bachelor's degree in nursing from the Medical College of Georgia. She and Byrd Peterson completed that program together.

Byrd, who was born in Georgia, was a founding member and later an adviser to the Licensed Practical Nurses Association of Georgia. She moved to the Chicago area in 2006 to be closer to her daughter.

"I sent my mother to Holland home to be cared for. To provide the care we could no longer provide for her. I didn't send her there to be murdered," Byrd Peterson said.