updated 2/17/2011 9:18:01 AM ET 2011-02-17T14:18:01

A Pennsylvania prosecutor says a dementia patient's mental state must be determined before authorities decide whether to charge him with homicide in the death of a fellow nursing home patient.

For now, 78-year-old Raymond Dunmyer Jr. remains in an undisclosed, secure facility. He is charged with aggravated assault in Saturday's beating death of 70-year-old Theodore Shaw, who was also a dementia patient at the Cambria Care Center in Ebensburg.

Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan says Dunmyer's son is his guardian and will likely request a public defender. Callihan says if the public defender doesn't ask for a mental evaluation of Dunmyer, her office will.

Police say Dunmyer beat Shaw and hit his head with a heavy door before aides could intervene.

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Officials at the Cambria Care Center in Ebensburg said they don't know why Dunmyer attacked Thomas Shaw on Saturday even after staff tried to stop him, said Mark Fox, a spokesman for Grane Healthcare, which owns the facility.

"Apparently, it all happened within a matter of moments," Fox told the Altoona Mirror for Wednesday's editions. "One second, he's in the room visiting Mr. Shaw and the next, staff is screaming for help."

Two nurse's aides discovered Shaw lying in a pool of his own blood and saw Dunmyer slamming a heavy wooden door against Shaw's head, state police Trooper Kenneth Durbin said. The aides struggled to control Dunmyer, who hit one of the aides in the face and kicked the other in the back before they could subdue him, Durbin said.

The Cambria County coroner ruled Shaw's death a homicide Tuesday, saying he died of head trauma from being struck with the door. Shaw also had bruises all over his body from being beaten, the coroner found.

Fox said Dunmyer had been a patient at the 370-bed nursing home since September and gave no indication "anything like this could happen." Dunmyer and Shaw lived on a floor that can accommodate 60 memory-impaired patients.

"Oftentimes they are in fine physical shape, but the brain is another story," Fox said.

Fox said Grane officials notified state health department officials and have been cooperating with the police investigation.

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