York County coroner rules Pleasant Acres fall death a homicide

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
Pleasant Acres Nursing Home. (Dawn J. Sagert - The York Dispatch)

York County's coroner has ruled the death of an 89-year-old Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center resident a homicide after three months of investigation, but authorities say no crime was committed.

Nancy Young died Dec. 15 of complications from a hip fracture caused by a fall during a Dec. 8 encounter at the formerly county-owned nursing home in Springettsbury Township.

That fall resulted from an altercation with another nursing home resident, the coroner's office has said, but it initially was thought to be accidental before authorities became involved.

Coroner Pam Gay on Thursday, March 14, issued a news release announcing the cause of Young's death, which has been pending since her Dec. 20 autopsy.

Young died of blunt-force injuries complicated by chronic medical issues, including cardiovascular disease, Gay's release states.

Gay noted that for coroners, the definition of homicide is broad — death at the hands of another — and that a ruling of homicide doesn't necessarily mean a crime has been committed. For example, if a person kills an attacking home intruder in self-defense, the death is still a homicide but is considered justifiable.

Autopsy done: In December, Gay ruled Young's death a homicide, then changed that determination to "pending" once Springettsbury Township Police asked for an autopsy to be performed.

"I have not changed my opinion," she told The York Dispatch at the time. "But we can't have a manner of death without a cause of death, and the cause of death is pending."

Gay said that Pleasant Acres staff notified township police of Young's death soon after it happened.

Young and the resident who allegedly caused her to fall suffered from dementia, authorities have said.

"Our hearts go out to the family of Nancy Young," York County District Attorney's Office spokesman Kyle King wrote in an email. "A thorough investigation was conducted by the Springettsbury Township Police, resulting in no ascertainable criminal act. The reality is that although (this is) a terrible tragedy, the facts as they exist do not rise to the level of a prosecutable incident."

Nancy Young

Not all homicides crimes: DA Dave Sunday has said that sometimes deaths can be ruled homicides and not result in criminal charges.

Springettsbury Township Police Chief Dan Stump was in a meeting the morning of Friday, March 15, and could not immediately be reached for comment.

He previously has said the investigation indicated Young either was pushed or had a door shut on her, causing her to fall.

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 told Young to leave and closed the door on her, police said.

When Young fell, she broke her left femur (thigh bone) and her left wrist, according to Gay, who said the injuries left Young bedridden until she died seven days later.

"This investigation is difficult and complicated, considering both people involved suffer from dementia," Stump said at the time.

The chief in December said there was no evidence to suggest Young's fall and subsequent death were intentional.

Young and the other resident didn't have previous run-ins, according to the chief. 

District Attorney Dave Sunday speaks about the investigation into the death of 89-year-old Nancy Young. Young died after an altercation at the Pleasant Acres, according to the coroner's office. John A. Pavoncello photo.

Door slammed: Lisa Sofia, CEO of Premier Healthcare, which now owns the 118 Pleasant Acres Road facility, has 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 in December.

Premier Healthcare bought Pleasant Acres from York County in July 2018 for $33.5 million.

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 wrist, the CEO said.

Sofia said there was no physical contact between the two residents and that the resident who closed the door on Young has no memory of the incident.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.