Coroner revises manner of death for Pleasant Acres resident, for now
York County Coroner Pam Gay is temporarily revising her initial homicide ruling in the death of an 89-year-old resident of Pleasant Acres Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.
"I have not changed my opinion," Gay told The York Dispatch. "But we can't have a manner of death without a cause of death, and the cause of death is pending."
That's because an autopsy was performed Thursday, Dec. 20, on the body of Nancy Young, the coroner said.
Springettsbury Township Police requested the autopsy be done after learning Gay's office believed the death was a homicide, meaning "death at the hands of another."
Gay said it will take up to 60 to 90 days for her office to receive a full autopsy report.
Autopsies can uncover, for example, other conditions that might have contributed to a person's death, she said.
"We're waiting for all the pieces of the puzzle to be put together," she said. "So for now we'll keep the cause and manner of death pending."
What happened: Prior to the autopsy, the coroner's office said Young died Saturday, Dec. 15, of complications from a hip fracture caused by a fall during a Dec. 8 altercation at the nursing home.
That fall resulted from an encounter with another nursing home resident, the coroner's office has said.
Springettsbury Township Police Chief Dan Stump said during a Wednesday, Dec. 19, news conference that an initial investigation showed Young either was pushed or had a door shut on her.
“Up to this point, none of those speculations have been corroborated,” he said. "I want to be clear that no one at Pleasant Acres Nursing Home is in danger. This was an isolated incident."
Young went into the wrong wing of the facility and into a room similar to her own on Dec. 8, according to the chief.
The room's resident — who also suffers from dementia — told Young to leave and closed the door on her, police said.
“This investigation is difficult and complicated, considering both people involved suffer from dementia,” Stump said.
Intent an issue: He said there's no evidence that the injuries to Young and her subsequent death were intentional.
“Anyone that was near it, around it — we’re interviewing everybody,” he said, but he noted there were very few people in the area during the encounter or altercation.
“At this point we don’t have anyone that actually saw what occurred," he said.
Young and the other resident didn't have previous run-ins, according to the chief.
Lisa Sofia, CEO of Premier Healthcare, which owns the facility, said what happened to Young, who suffered from severe dementia, was a result of another resident slamming the door on her.
“This was absolutely, unequivocally, unintentional,” she said Wednesday.
Premier Healthcare bought Pleasant Acres from York County in July for $33.5 million.
No touching: According to Sofia, Young went into the wrong room, was told to leave and had the door closed on her.
“It appears that it startled Miss Young, and Miss Young then fell,” breaking her hip and wrists, the CEO said.
Sofia said there was no touching between the two residents and that the resident who closed the door on Young has no memory of the incident.
Gay has stressed that a coroner's ruling of homicide doesn't necessarily mean a crime has occurred. For example, when someone is shot in self-defense it is still a homicide, albeit a justifiable one, and those aren't crimes.
York County District Attorney Dave Sunday also said that sometimes deaths can be ruled homicides and not result in criminal charges.
Death certificate: Gay said her office hasn't yet filed Young's death certificate with the state but had submitted a version to the county's Office of Vital Records.
The vital-records office is voiding that version, Gay said, adding she will then file a death certificate that states the manner and cause of Young's death are pending — for now.
"I have to do that because the cause of death is pending. So the manner has to be pending too," she said.
But the coroner doesn't expect her final ruling will be different from her initial ruling.
"My investigation still supports 'death at the hands of another,' and there's nothing that's convinced me any differently," Gay said.
She said she believes the full autopsy report will confirm her findings.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.