Toxic Levels of Painkillers Killed Assisted Care Resident: Coroner

Deaths of two other residents under investigation as of Tuesday

An elderly woman died at an assisted living facility as a result of toxic levels of painkillers, the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office determined, and the death was ruled a homicide.

Dorothy Byrd, 98, died the day after six residents of Holland Home, at 16300 Louis Ave. in South Holland, were hospitalized Feb. 3 for unknown causes. Two other residents among six who were hospitalized died earlier this month. The conditions of the other three patients was not known Tuesday morning.

Medical examiner's spokesman Frank Shuftan said Byrd's death was caused by morphine and hydrocodone toxicity, combined with hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
"Toxic levels of those substances were found as part of further tests that were ordered in determining cause and manner of death," Shuftan told the Daily Southtown.

Tom Paris, the attorney hired by Byrd's daughter Sandra Peterson, says the woman was never prescriped morphine for pain.

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

South Holland Police Lt. Shawn Staples said investigators learned about a week ago that 88-year-old Robert Rundin and 98-year-old Leon Krynicki had also died. Shuftan said further tests were needed to determine the cause of their deaths.

"We’re continuing to cooperate closely with local law enforcement’s ongoing investigation and are referring all questions to them until that’s concluded," said David Mills, the CEO of Villa Healthcare, which manages Holland Home. "Our own internal investigation is also ongoing, consistent with our commitment to provide quality resident care."

But the aftermath has left many people like Carol Denton, worried for the safety of their family members that are still housed in Holland Home.

“My uncle has been here approximately eight years and to our knowledge nothing like this has ever happened, but I feel as if everything is hush-hush now,” Denton said. “I am saddened by the families that this has happened to and I am concerned about my uncle, I am not going to lie.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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