Posted on Fri, Apr. 30, 2004
State says it's hard to deter nursing home shooting
By Ben Tinsley
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
GRAPEVINE - The state will investigate a case in which a dying man fatally shot his paralyzed wife Wednesday and then himself at a nursing home.
Authorities on Thursday were still at a loss to explain how the tragedy could have been averted.
Neville Booker, 84, left two notes behind explaining why he shot himself and his wife, Jessie, with a .32-caliber handgun. He wrote that he felt he and his wife, 81, were trapped in a "dual nightmare."
Texas Human Services spokeswoman Rosemary Patterson said her department intends to investigate. She said it's hard to keep such tragedies from happening when there are no overt signals.
"Nursing homes are people's homes, and you have to have normal freedoms," she said. "I'm really not sure what kind of security measures could have changed that."
The couple's health problems were the main reason Neville Booker acted as he did, Grapevine Police Sgt. Bob Murphy said Thursday.
Neville Booker suffered from terminal leukemia and his health was quickly deteriorating. Jessie Booker could not care for herself because she suffered a stroke about a year ago and was partially disabled and in a wheelchair.
Lynne Renfro, general counsel for Centers for Long Term Care of Woodridge Inc. the Dallas-based company that owns CLC Woodridge Nursing Home, said her company will make whatever changes the state advises.
"If we hear of a problem with a relative we will contact police and Adult Protective Services, but there has to be a forewarning and in this case there wasn't any," Renfro said. "In fact, our facility was very familiar with him coming in almost every day to see his wife."
The two were alone in Jessie Booker's bedroom Wednesday when Neville Booker shot her and then himself in the head, Grapevine police said. No one heard the shots, but Murphy said that was not surprising because a small-caliber weapon was used and the door to her room was closed.
Few additional details were available Thursday, but Murphy said authorities believe Neville Booker purchased the handgun solely to shoot himself and his wife.
Authorities do not know whether Jessie Booker knew of her husband's plan.
"He didn't say so either way in his notes," Murphy said. "He just said they would 'leave together.' That leaves it open for speculation."
A nurse who walked into the room about 2:40 p.m. found Neville Booker's body in a chair and his wife in her wheelchair. Jessie Booker died an hour later at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. Neville Booker was pronounced dead at the scene.
Jessie Booker had lived at the nursing home since May. She and her husband moved from Rockport for health reasons, and to be close to their son, who lives in Grapevine. Neville Booker was from Britain and became a U.S. citizen years ago, friends said.
Firearms are not allowed in the home but it would have been simple to sneak in a small handgun, authorities said.
Murphy said that if someone is willing to die that way, authorities can't do much to stop it.
"I can't even imagine a nursing home setting up the type of security needed to keep out something like that," Murphy said. Keller police Lt. Tommy Williams said trying to put in additional safeguards also could be insulting to residents.
"People in nursing centers have family coming in all the time," Williams said. "They might not be even broadcasting the symptoms or signals you would need to pick up to prevent this from happening."
Relatives of the Bookers did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.