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13 guns found in home of woman, 92, who allegedly killed son over nursing home dispute

Police: Woman shot and killed 72-year-old son

PHOENIX -- The sheriff of metro Phoenix said Thursday he is examining whether his deputies should have done more when they began receiving calls earlier this year from a home where a 92-year-old woman is accused of fatally shooting her son because he wanted to put her in an assisted living facility.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office received several calls from the home of Anna Mae Blessing and her son, 72-year-old Thomas Blessing, who was shot Monday. Investigators say Anna Blessing was upset about her son's plans to put her into assisted living and got into an argument with him Monday over the way she was being treated.

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Anna Mae Blessing in court on July 3, 2018 Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff's Office / KPHO-TV

In a June 21 call, the son alleged his mother was threatening him, agency spokesman Sgt. Joaquin Enriquez said. Deputies discovered during a prior call that guns were kept in the home but didn't learn until after the shooting that there were 13 guns in the house, including two belonging to Anna Blessing. None of the guns were secured in a safe or cabinet, authorities said.

Sheriff Paul Penzone initially said domestic disputes often can't be predicted or prevented.

But the sheriff said at a news conference Thursday that when he made that statement, he didn't know his deputies had previously received calls from the home in Fountain Hills, about 30 miles northeast of Phoenix.

"I want to know if our agency could have done more to have prevented this," Penzone said.

Enriquez said deputies were called to the Blessings' home several times since January, though not all calls were related to disputes between the mother and son. One call, for instance, was about the son's concerns that he might be an identity theft victim, Enriquez said.

Penzone said the mother and son had previously expressed concerns that the other person could become violent. He declined to say whether deputies should have taken away the guns after getting the earlier calls.

"It was obvious that there were frustrations in the relationship, even to the point where the escalation was either just below or at the threshold of making indirect or direct threats," Penzone said of one of those calls, the station reports.

The department says they are investigating whether the threats were "viable enough to justify a crime."

As part of its internal review, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office will look at all documentation, including body camera video, of the previous calls at the home, reports CBS affiliate KPHO.  Enriquez said there were six calls from the home since January, and four of those were reportedly all on June 21 -- a little more than a week before the shooting -- over a possible domestic dispute. Of those four calls, deputies responded to the home twice, the station reports.

Penzone said his officers are limited in what they can do on calls in such instances if no violation of the law is found. He also said his officers would be criticized for overreacting if they take away guns from people who say they need them for protection.

However, the sheriff said it's unacceptable if his agency failed to take the appropriate steps in dealing with the disputes between the mother and son.

"But we are ultimately not the one responsible when an individual decides to take an act using a firearms or other weapon to take a life," Penzone said. "It is that individual's responsibility. They own it."

After the shooting, investigators say Thomas Blessing's girlfriend managed to take away two guns from the suspect.

Anna Blessing is charged with first-degree murder and being held in a jail infirmary because of her advanced age. It's not clear whether she has been assigned an attorney.  She has a cash-only bond of $500,000, the station reports.

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