April 5, 2006 - A former Oro Valley town councilman has been charged with negligent homicide in the death of a 78-year-old woman.
Kenneth Karol, 85, served on the Oro Valley town council between June 1990 and June 1993, when he lost a recall election.
According to Pima County Sheriff's Department reports, Karol got into an argument with Mary Stewart Weiser Jan. 9 in a shopping center parking lot at Oracle and Orange Grove roads because Karol believed Weiser had hit his car.
Karol began punching Weiser in the chest, and then used both hands and rushed at Weiser, striking her in the chest and causing her to fall straight back, striking her head against the pavement, according to the police report.
When emergency personnel arrived, Weiser was taken by ambulance to Northwest Medical Center for treatment of a possible concussion since she complained of dizziness. Karol was cited by deputies for assault and disorderly conduct and was allowed to leave the scene.
Although deputy D.J. Chavarria stated in the report that "the nature of Mrs. Weiser's injuries did not seem to be serious and her transport appeared to be precautionary," Weiser suffered seizures shortly after arriving at Northwest Medical Center, the report stated. She died four days after the incident, having never regained consciousness.
Autopsy reports showed a large amount of acute bleeding on both the left and right sides of her brain. Her cause of death was listed as subdural hematoma - a collection of blood on her brain - as a result of her fall.
Chavarria stated in the report that "there did not appear to be any type of motor vehicle accident. There was no damage to either vehicle."
When Karol was later told by deputies that Weiser might die from her injuries, Karol "appeared to be genuinely surprised at the condition of the victim," Sheriff's Deputy Jill Murphy wrote in the report.
Karol was indicted by a grand jury for negligent homicide, a class four felony, on March 16 in Pima County Superior Court.
However, Karol's defense attorney, Jesse Smith, is unsure if Karol will even be fit to stand trial. Karol has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and his condition has become worse since the incident, Smith said.
"There are indications and questions about whether he was even aware of what he had done and what had gone on there," Smith said. "If he can't be restored to competency to stand trial, the charges would just be dismissed."
Since his indictment, Karol has been ordered by the court into a secure Alzheimer's treatment facility, Smith said. Two court-appointed psychologists will examine Karol to determine if he is competent to stand trial.
If Karol is found incompetent, he will likely remain in the Alzheimer's facility for the rest of his life, Smith said.
If Karol is found competent to stand trail and is convicted, he could face a sentence of up to 3.75 years in prison.
"Since he has no prior record and obviously this was the result of some form of Alzheimer's, I would hope he would be placed on probation in the event he's found competent to stand trial. I would be very surprised if he were sent to prison," Smith said. "It's a sort of freak occurrence that someone this old gets involved in something like this. He's the oldest person I've ever had to represent."
Aggressive behavior and overreaction are common traits in people suffering from Alzheimer's disease, said Dr. Dharma Khalsa, president and medical director of the Alzheimer's Prevention Foundation.
"In all Alzheimer's patients, people lose judgment control. They don't have very good control of their impulses, and they might have a tendency toward aggressive behavior," Khalsa said. "Personality changes and overreaction are common in Alzheimer's patients."
Still, family members and medical personnel should take proper notice of an Alzheimer's patient showing these traits, Khalsa said.
"If someone is that far into the disease, someone should have noticed those impulses, and they shouldn't be out driving," he said.
When deputies visited The Fountains, the assisted living facility where Karol was living at the time, a wellness nurse told Sheriff's deputies that Karol "has had more frequent 'outbursts' lately with [name deleted] and has had outbursts with his family members in the past," the report stated.
The report further stated that a nurse told deputies that Karol "has a tendency to forget events after a few days pass by."
The family of Mary Weiser could not be located for comment on this story.