Personal Injury

Nursing home resident, wrestler not likely to face charges in death case

The former football player and amateur wrestling legend was likely reliving his old days when he grabbed his nursing home roommate and pushed him to the floor. The force of the fall fractured the victim’s hip and injured his head, ultimately leading to his death. The corner’s report stated that complications from a fractured hip caused the man’s death and as a result the death was ruled a homicide. But it is unlikely the former athlete will ever face charges, according to The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C.

The challenge is that both the 83-year-old assailant, Verne Gagne, and the 97-year-old victim, Helmut Gutmann, suffer from Alzheimer’s-related dementia. Not only can the disease dissolve memory, it also can make its victims agitated, anxious and aggressive.

According to family members, the two men had been in the lobby of Friendship Village nursing home’s memory loss unit near the nurse’s station when Gagne grabbed Gutmann and threw him to the floor. No one was present at the time and no one seems to know what caused the scuffle.

Family members said Gutmann didn’t remember how he hurt his hip, just that it hurt. He had surgery and was recovering until he stopped eating and died just shy of three weeks after the fall. The men had at least one other disagreement in the past, according to family members.

Gutmann’s family says they do not plan to press charges against Gagne but have questions as to the precautions the nursing home has in place to protect residents against such attacks. “It’s hard enough for people and families who are afflicted with Alzheimer’s. They shouldn’t also have to worry about physical vulnerabilities or the risk of harm,” says Gutmann’s daughter, Ruth Henning.