Death of 86-year-old Catonsville woman ruled homicide; no charges filed
By ALISON KNEZEVICH and The Baltimore Sun
Apr 06, 2012 | 8:57 PM
Two lawn chairs sit on the porch of the red-brick house in Catonsville where Emma and Lloyd Klein had lived for years.
One evening last month, police say, 92-year-old Lloyd Klein wanted to walk to a nearby church. But he suffered from dementia, so his 86-year-old wife stood in front of him to try to stop him from leaving alone.
Determined to go to the church, he pushed her out of his way, causing her to fall, Emma Klein told police. She died a few days later at the hospital.
Baltimore County police said Friday that the death has been ruled a homicide, but State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger will not file charges because he has determined there was no criminal intent in the incident, which happened March 12.
"In this case, there was absolutely no intent to harm her," Detective Cathy Batton said.
Police say Emma Klein told them the couple was married for 65 years and there was no history of domestic violence. She also told them her husband did not mean to hurt her and only wanted to go to church.
The office of the chief medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, meaning it was caused by another person. Medical examiners and prosecutors consider different factors when classifying deaths, Shellenberger said.
"They call things homicides when there's death at the hands of others," he said, but for prosecutors to consider something a murder, "there has to be criminal intent."
Lloyd Klein called 911 after his wife fell, Shellenberger said.
"I personally listened to the 911 calls," he said. "It was clear he was confused and really didn't understand."
He added, "It's very sad that somebody has lost their life, who … from our reading of the facts, was really just trying to protect him."
People in the advanced stages of dementia often "cannot recognize people who are around them as people who care for them," said dementia expert J. Carson Smith of the kinesiology department at the University of Maryland, College Park.
"They can have a strong will to do something, as well," Smith said. "And many times, a person with dementia … [is] not able to move away from an idea that they have."
With the confusion that people suffering from dementia experience, they also might not understand the ramifications of their actions, or why someone would ask them not do something, he said.
Emma Klein suffered a hip injury in the fall, police said. She was taken to St. Agnes Hospital, where she later died of complications from the injury.
"When you're dealing with elderly folks who are so frail, unfortunately anything can happen once there's the slightest injury," Shellenberger said.
According to her obituary, Emma Klein had two children and three grandchildren.
Reached by phone, her daughter in Pennsylvania said the family did not want to comment.
The Kleins' home on Altavue Road, in a quiet neighborhood off North Rolling Road, is well-maintained, with a neat lawn and red flower bushes out front.
In a letter to police dated April 4, Deputy State's Attorney Robin Coffin wrote that prosecutors considered the death an accident and that it was clear from the evidence that there was no criminal intent.