Mentally ill man jailed in death of patient, 82
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A schizophrenic man faces a homicide charge after police said he shoved an elderly dementia patient at a Beaver County hospital last week, causing him to fall and hit his head.
Gerald Rooney Jr. of Economy died Sunday at Heritage Valley Beaver Hospital in Brighton.
Peter W. Kuchynsky, 58, who was already in jail on an assault charge stemming from the July 4 incident, was awaiting arraignment Tuesday on a general charge of criminal homicide.
He faces a preliminary hearing Friday at the Beaver County Courthouse.
Mr. Rooney, 82, and Mr. Kuchynsky were housed in rooms directly across from each other in the hospital's fourth-floor psychiatric ward.
Hospital employees believe Mr. Rooney entered Mr. Kuchynsky's room by mistake, possibly looking for a jacket.
Mr. Kuchynsky, angered that someone was in his room, shoved the older man out and across the hall, where he hit his head on the door of his own room and fell, according to an affidavit.
Another patient, who walks the halls for exercise, told police he heard yelling in the hall and then saw Mr. Rooney being ejected from Mr. Kuchynsky's room and saw him hit the door.
Marilyn Buchwald, the psychiatric supervisor, said she heard yelling and found Mr. Rooney on the floor, unconscious, with his head against the door of his room.
He was transported downstairs to the emergency room in critical condition and died Sunday of head trauma, according to the coroner's office.
Ms. Buchwald said Mr. Rooney, a retired carpenter, had severe dementia and often wandered the hallways without realizing where he was or where he was going. But she said he "has a pleasant attitude and is not threatening in any way," according to the affidavit.
Mr. Kuchynsky, she said, "gets upset and violent" when others, including hospital staff, enter his room or approach his belongings. She said staffers usually speak to him at his door rather than entering and irritating him.
Ms. Buchwald told police that Mr. Rooney may have stood his ground when confronted by Mr. Kuchynsky because he thought he was in his own room.
Police tried to interview Mr. Kuchynsky, but they said he was hard to understand because he speaks in a heavy Ukrainian accent and slurs his words.
Police said he thought the officers were firemen and "kept talking about the war."
In talking to him for 10 minutes, the officers said all they could understand is that Mr. Rooney entered his room in search of a jacket, or possibly grabbed a jacket, and Mr. Kuchynsky ordered him out.
Mr. Rooney will be buried Wednesday at Rehoboth Cemetery in Economy.
First Published July 11, 2012 12:00 am