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Police: Alzheimer's Patient, 87, Kills Roommate At Lakewood Facility

DENVER (AP/CBS4) - An 87-year-old Alzheimer's patient faces a homicide charge after the deadly beating of a fellow resident at an assisted living facility in Lakewood.

Prosecutors said Tuesday that Homer Castor also was arrested for crimes against an at-risk adult after the Saturday assault on 76-year-old Gerald Propp in the room they shared. Propp died late Monday.

Gerald Propp
Gerald Propp (credit: Family Photo)

Lakewood police officers were called to Atria Applewood after staff members heard yelling and screaming coming from one of the rooms. Officers found Propp lying severely injured in bed and Castor walking away from him, according to Castor's arrest affidavit.

"When they went in they found this victim lying in bed suffering from these injuries, and another male resident, and 87-year-old man, Homer Castor, was leaving the victim's side when they walked in," Steve Davis with Lakewood police told CBS4.

Castor told officers he thought Propp, a fellow Alzheimer's patient, had tried to beat him up in the middle of the night and was pretending to be asleep when he assaulted him. Police noticed cuts and bruises on his hands, the affidavit says.

A judge on Monday ordered an evaluation of Castor's mental competency. His attorney, Dave Thomas, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the allegations.

Atria Applewood issued a statement saying employees were saddened by the death, and the facility is cooperating with investigators. "We are committed to taking all necessary steps to ensure that our residents continue to feel safe and protected in our community," the statement said.

Castor was known to staff for being hard to understand and at times difficult to deal with. An aide who interacted with him described him to police as "never listening, hard hitting and did not make much sense," according to the arrest affidavit.

Castor also had documented problems with Propp. Employees noted an earlier incident between the men in which Propp was left with scratches on his neck, according to the affidavit. Staff noted in his file that he suffers from dementia and should be monitored because he was known to wander at night. Sometimes he would get up and get dressed, believing it was morning.

(credit: CBS)

An aide told police that she tried several times to get Castor to go to bed the night of the beating, but he kept wandering around the building, finally falling asleep on a couch in a common area. Once he was back in his own room, the aide said she checked on Castor twice between 12:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. and found both men sleeping, according to the affidavit. When she returned for a third check, she heard a voice yelling for help and found Propp badly bleeding.

Neither man's relatives immediately returned calls for comment.

Atria Applewood was timely in notifying the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment about the assault, said Randy Kuykendall, director of the agency's health facilities and emergency medical services division. The department is responsible for licensing assisted living facilities.

The facility as a "good compliance history," Kuykendall said. The health department declined to cite the facility in all but one of about 30 incidents between 2012 and 2014, according to department records.

Inspectors found the facility acted appropriately in most of the cases, including one a July 2012 case in which a woman in her 80s threw an object at another resident and a case last year in which a man in his 70s pushed a female resident in her 80s, causing her to fall.

The facility has 130 beds and a 50-bed secured unit, which is reserved for people with problems such as dementia and other cognitive impairments, Kuykendall said. There are stringent requirements for assessing whether a resident should be placed in the unit, which is more restrictive, he said.

It was not clear if Castor had been living in the unit. Kuykendall would not comment on the case specifically, saying the health department would be conducting its own far-reaching investigation of the agency's policies and practices as a matter of course after a death.

"The resident is allowed to flourish to the degree that they can. But these kids of diseases are highly individualized," Kuykendall said. "Different people react differently, and there's always the potential for significant behavior issues up to and including violence."

- By Sadie Gurman, AP Writer

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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