Minnesota has been in the national news recently because of two unrelated but atypical deaths. The first involves former professional wrestler, Verne Gagne. Gagne wrestled for the University of Minnesota and was an NCAA champion before he began wrestling professionally in 1949. The Twin Cites soon became the center of professional wrestling thanks to Gagne’s leadership of the American Wrestling Association.
Gagne now resides in a nursing home in Bloomington, Minnesota. He is accused of throwing a 97-year old man to the floor last month. The man later died from complications from a right hip fracture due to the fall. Though the death was ruled a homicide, charges may not be filed in the case because both men suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and did not remember what had happened. In a display of compassion, the victim’s family has stated that filing charges against Gagne would be “inhumane”.
This is not the first time Alzheimer patients have bee involved in homicide. A fight broke out between two seniors at a Toronto nursing home in May of 2007 and one man died. But Toronto police decided not to charge anyone because both men suffered from Alzheimer's. Given the sharply rising numbers of seniors afflicted with the disease, it is likely that we will see more of these types of cases.
The second unusual case involves an 18-year-old Canadian college student named Nadia Kajouji. Her body was found in a river in Ottawa weeks after she disappeared last winter. Nadia suffered from depression and her death was considered a suicide. But when Ottawa investigators searched her e-mail, they found that a male nurse in Minnesota had advised Nadia in an online chat room how she could commit suicide. He told her about being depressed for years and that he planned to commit suicide, too. Nadia’s mother believes that the suspect made it sound like a suicide pact and urged Nadia to open a webcam between the two of them when she committed suicide; something investigators think didn’t happen. A similar case happened in England last year and in other suicide chat rooms where people around the world discuss reasons and methods for committing suicide.
The St. Paul PD, the Minnesota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension are all cooperating with the Ottawa Police Department in the ongoing investigation. Prosecutors apparently have some specific charges in mind and may also be looking at state and federal statues.
This case reminds me of Lori Drew of St. Louis, who helped create a MySpace account in the name of someone who didn’t exist to convince Megan Meier she was chatting with a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans. Megan later hanged herself after receiving a dozen or more cruel messages, including one stating the world would be better off without her. The case was the first time a federal statute was used in a social-networking case. Drew was convicted of misdemeanors, though jurors admitted after the trial that they would have convicted her on three felony counts if they had been given the evidence from prosecutors.
The male nurse from Minnesota has been disciplined by the Minnesota Nursing Board in the past for numerous incidents of poor nursing practices and incidents of abuse of nursing home residents. His license was suspended on February 19th. If he is charged and brought to trial, perhaps he won’t be as fortunate as Lori Drew.
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