Image: Elizabeth Barrow
family photo via AP
In this photo provided by Scott Barrow, his mother, Elizabeth Barrow, celebrates her 100th birthday at his home in Dartmouth, Mass., on Aug. 21.
updated 10/8/2009 5:40:30 PM ET 2009-10-08T21:40:30

The son of a 100-year-old woman found strangled in a nursing home with a plastic bag over her head said Thursday his mother loved living at the home, where she was involved in activities and was upbeat and outgoing with staffers and other residents.

Elizabeth Barrow was found dead in her bed last month by workers doing a routine check of patients at Brandon Woods nursing home, Bristol District Attorney Sam Sutter said. Initially, police speculated it was a suicide, but a state medical examiner later ruled it a homicide after autopsy results showed the cause of death was strangulation.

Barrow's son, Scott, said Thursday that a staffer at the nursing home called him early on Sept. 24 and said his mother had been found dead "under unusual circumstances" and a plastic bag from a local convenience store had been put over her head.

The district attorney's office declined to release other details on Barrow's death, but her son, Scott Barrow, told

‘Devastating news’
Barrow, 61, said the family had been hopeful that his mother died in her sleep, and thought maybe someone put the bag over her head after her death, in the same way a sheet might be put over a dead body.

"That fact that there was a homicide, and strangulation was the cause, is devastating news," he said.

A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press that Barrow shared a room with a woman in her late 90s. There were no obvious signs of a struggle. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to comment on an ongoing investigation.

Investigators were unaware of any conflicts Barrow may have had with others, the official said.

Nursing home workers and other residents are being questioned, Sutter said Thursday. "We're looking at this case from all possible angles," he said.

Elizabeth Barrow had a sharp mind and was in good health for a woman her age, her son said.

"My mother was a very loving and outgoing person," Scott Barrow said. "She loved the nursing home she was living at. She was involved in the all the activities.

"Every day she would go up and down the halls and give everyone a hug and say hello. She was like a cheerleader."

Barrow said he learned from the medical examiner's report that the bag had been tied on, and said investigators asked him questions about his mother's new shoelaces, which he had bought her the previous day.

‘She was a wonderful woman’
Nursing home officials are cooperating with authorities, the home's chief of operations, Scott Picone, said Thursday. He said Barrow's death has hit the facility hard.

"She was a wonderful woman and we were very attached to her, as we are to all our residents," Picone said.

Brandon Woods scored below the state average in performance surveys conducted in the past two years, but there were no major violations, according to the Web site of the state Executive Office of Human Services, which oversees nursing homes.

The state found a number of deficiencies, including two described as a failure to "meet the dignity of each resident." The online survey did not specify their exact nature. Other deficiencies found in three recent surveys included the failure to develop comprehensive care plans for some residents.

The nursing home president, identified in public records as Frank Romano Jr. of Rowley, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

In good health and spirits
The family, including her three adult grandchildren, took her out for lunch and went shopping for winter clothes the day before she died and she was in good health and spirits, he said. She also loved trips to the library. She used to read a book a day, but had recently cut back to two a week, her son said.

She celebrated her 100th birthday on Aug. 21 with a cookout at her son's home when her granddaughter made one of her favorite dishes, baked stuffed shrimp.

Barrow said his mother was born and grew up in New Bedford before moving to nearby Dartmouth in the 1940s. Dartmouth is about 50 miles south of Boston.

When she was in her 20s, Barrow said his mother was a teacher in the New Bedford Textile School, and was dubbed "Miss Rayon" by the New Bedford Rayon Co. As the official representative of the company that manufactured the new miracle fabric used in the city's tire industry, she traveled all over New England and New York.

She worked for Bishop Stang High School and the Dartmouth public schools for about two decades as a cafeteria worker, where she was known as the "Dessert Lady," he said.

"Kids would buy the lunches just to get the dessert," he said. "When she made apple crisp, it would be a complete sellout."

Elizabeth Barrow and her husband, A. Raymond, both moved to Brandon Woods about 4 1/2 years ago, he said. Her husband was a former town assessor and owned a gas station in town.
She took care of her husband of 65 years until he died two years ago. After he passed away, Barrow said his mother continued to be "upbeat" with her family and friends.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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