Case XII: Chapter 2: Not Another Death at the Old Folks’ Home
Isabella Duncan, Matthew Dudley and Frida Savino were sitting in Isabella’s office when Lt. Garcia arrived a short time later.
“I got your call, Isabella and came as soon as I was able. You said there had been a death of a Resident and that the EMT recommended you call me. Can you give me a bit more information? By the way, it is good to see all of you again and I hope this doesn’t develop into an unfortunate situation.”
“It is good to see you as well, Lieutenant, and I share your thought about this situation.”
“Mrs. Harriet Aldridge came here almost three years ago and was a pleasant person with an interesting background. She was bilingual and seemed to get along with most everyone here, although she tended to keep to herself. I believe she had some sort of relationship with Ynez Barela and I occasionally saw them together in the Dining Room speaking Spanish with one another woman. Señora Angostura may be able to tell you more about that.”
“Good. That will give a reason to visit with Paloma. Did Mrs. Aldridge have any family?”
“Harriet had been a widow for quite some time. I believe she has a daughter who lives here in Albuquerque or maybe somewhere in the East Mountains; I’d have to check the files to be certain. Anyway, her daughter and son-in-law visit about once-a-month. I don’t believe there is any other family that I’m aware of.”
“OK. I’ll need any contact information you have on file. Would you like for me to contact the daughter or would you prefer to do it?”
“Let’s wait until you’ve had a chance to look at the situation and we can decide before you leave.”
“That makes sense. Now, if you could tell me exactly what happened and what you know about the situation.”
“Lieutenant, this is Frida Savino, the Supervisor for that Section of the Independent Living Unit. She was the one who actually discovered Mrs. Aldridge. Frida, please tell Lt. Garcia what happened.”
It had been less than two hours since Frida discovered Mrs. Aldridge and she was still somewhat shaken by the events. She took another drink of water and looked directly at Lt. Garcia. “Actually, it was Elena, the person responsible for the apartment who first noticed Mrs. Aldridge lying on the floor. She remembered her training and did not touch anything, including Mrs. Aldridge. Elena immediately came and got me. I was just a few steps down the hallway. When I entered the apartment, I called out to Mrs. Aldridge several times as I moved closer to where she was lying on the floor. When she did not respond, I immediately sent Elena to notify Señora Duncan and Señor Dudley. I then stood in the doorway to wait for them and to make sure no one entered the apartment.”
“Very good, Señora Savino. You did exactly the correct things. I assume you also did not touch or move any objects that were near the body or in the apartment”?
“No, Sir. Elena was scheduled to clean the apartment this morning and Mrs. Aldridge often goes for a walk or out with her daughter on those days. Elena entered the apartment and saw Mrs. Aldridge on the floor and immediately came and got me.”
“OK, thank you. I may have some more questions and will want to talk to you and Elena again after I’ve been to the apartment, but I think that will be enough for now.”
Turning to Matthew Dudley, Garcia said, “Doc, could you take me to the apartment and make sure no one enters while I have a look around?”
As the two men walked to the second floor, Garcia put in a call to the Coroner’s office and asked that Dr. George Hernandez come to La Vida Aureo as soon as possible. He also made arrangements to transport Mrs. Aldridge’s body to the City Morgue.
Dudley opened the apartment door but remained in the doorway to allow Garcia time to examine the scene without interruption. When Dudley saw that no one was in the hallway, he closed the door and began looking around. Mrs. Aldridge was lying on the floor at one end of the Living Room near the entrance to the Kitchen. Garcia was kneeling over her body and closely examining the carpet. As Dudley approached, Garcia looked up. “I suspect the EMT was right; there appears to be a large and severe contusion on the side of her head which may have been the cause of death. There is also a glass near her body and some type of spilled liquid. I’ll have one of the Forensic Techs come over and take some samples. I’ll wait for Hernandez to have a look; he always seems to come up with ways to make my life more interesting.”
“I agree, Lieutenant. Whatever was in that glass may not be important, but it’s probably wise to analyze it. From what I’ve heard, her daughter can get pretty worked up at times and I’d hate to see her make things difficult for you.”
“Thanks for the heads-up, Doc. I’ve seen too many cases where a family member doesn’t want to accept the simple explanation and becomes unreasonable. I think I’ll leave any further investigation of the body to the Coroner and look around the rest of the apartment.”
Garcia called Tom Bowers, Senior Forensic Technician and went into the Kitchen and began looking in the cabinets and pantry. Dudley continued to walk around the Living Room, casually examining the bookshelves and photographs. He heard a heavy pounding on the apartment door followed by a loud voice. “Garcia, are you in there? C’mon, open up if you expect me to do my job.”
Garcia came back into the Living Room and opened the door. “It’s nice to see you again, too, George.”
“You know how much I look forward to coming to this Old Folks Home where there seems to be no end to the unusual ways these geezers can die.”
“Well, I hate to disappoint you, George, but this looks pretty straight-forward. I wouldn’t have even bothered to call you, but you know how Department procedures are and how I try to avoid inter-departmental controversy. “
“Yeah, yeah. Just tell me what we’re looking at, if you don’t mind.”
“It looks like Mrs. Aldridge fell and hit her head on this end table. I noticed a rather large contusion on the side of her head. There’s a glass on the floor and spilled liquid of some sort. I’ve called Tom Bowers to come over and take some samples, etc. That’s about it. I had just begun looking around the apartment when you arrived. Oh, and I assume you remember Matthew Dudley. He lives here and has been helpful to me in the past.”
“Mr. Dudley, it’s nice to see you again. It seems like we only meet under unfortunate circumstances.“
Turning back to Lt. Garcia, Hernandez smiled, “Now, Frank, if you’ll be so kind as to let me look at this poor woman’s body. And, when Bowers arrives, make sure he gets samples from this table; it looks like blood and hair on this upper edge.”
Tom Bowers, the Senior Forensic Technician with the Albuquerque Police Department arrived as Garcia and Dudley were exiting the apartment into the hallway. Garcia described the situation to Bowers with directions to look closely at the liquid spilled on the carpet, the suspect end table as well as the area around Mrs. Aldridge’s body. “It appears that this may be a case of an older person falling and hitting her head on a sharp corner of a table, but I know you will use your best judgment and be completely thorough in your investigation. Please let me know when you have some information for me to review. Oh, and be careful; Dr. Hernandez is particularly testy today. I think coming here to investigate deaths of these Seniors really upsets him; I know he has an aging mother and this may hit too close to home.”
Dudley and Garcia walked back toward the Main Lobby where Isabella Duncan was standing looking out the large front window. “Thanks for coming so promptly, Lieutenant. I put a call in to Mrs. Aldridge’s daughter, but had to leave a message. Please let me know when you have any additional information that I can share with her, particularly when the body can be released.”
“Will do, Isabella. I hope this turns out to be just an unfortunate accident.” Garcia shook hands with Matthew Dudley and headed to the Visitor’s Parking Lot.