The 83-year-old nursing home patient police say allegedly used his walker to beat his 72-year-old roommate to death Saturday night appeared before a judge Monday, where a forensic psychologist determined he “had no rational appreciation” for the circumstances of the murder charge he faces.
After speaking with Oxford Rehabilitation and Health Care Center patient Jose Veguilla and his family, Dr. Kerry Nellington told Haverhill District Court Judge Patricia Dowling the man suffers from dementia and a traumatic brain injury as the result of a fall. Nelligan also told Dowling Veguilla confused her for the attorney hired to represent him, Jonathan Shapiro.
“While he knew he was at the court, he doesn’t know the day, month or even the year. He also from one moment to the next could not remember if he had an attorney or if that attorney was myself or his counsel,” Nelligan said. “He did demonstrate a basic factual understanding of why he’s here today but he has no rational appreciation surrounding this or the potential circumstances of these charges.
Dowling sent Veguilla to Bridgewater State Hospital for a 20-day competency evaluation, holding him without bail on a charge of murder.
Called to The Oxford at 7:37 p.m. Saturday, Haverhill Police Officers Justin Graham and Kevin Tracy found Veguilla on the second floor of 689 Main St., at the entrance to the day room allegedly swinging his metal walker. Graham ordered him to drop the walker, which had blood on the legs and handle.
He complied with Graham’s order, then shook his hand and attempted to speak to him in Spanish. During a later interview with Officer Kevin DeCarvalho conducted in Spanish, Veguilla was “not making any sense” and telling DeCarvalho “random stories about a man and woman he may need to get rid of,” police said.
When police went to the room Veguilla and victim Robert Boucher shared, they found a nurse tending to Boucher, who was bleeding from his head and had a large laceration on his forehead. According to Graham, Boucher was breathing but unresponsive at that time.
One nurse who treated Veguilla told police she saw him hit Boucher with the bloody walker and that Veguilla put down the walker down at one point and sat in a chair before telling her “he thought it was a set up and he had to kill Boucher.”
In a statement Monday, The Oxford’s parent company, Connecticut-based Athena Health Care Systems, told WHAV their staff acted “quickly and appropriately” based on an internal investigation. Support services are being made available to staff and residents, Athena’s Director of Marketing and Communications Tim Brown said.