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Woman charged with helping WWII veteran commit suicide with Oxycontin-laced yogurt

March 28, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A South Orange County woman has been charged with illegally assisting an elderly man kill himself with yogurt containing a lethal dose of pain killers.

According to investigators, 66-year-old Laguna Woods resident Elizabeth Barrett assisted in the suicide of Jack Koency, an 86-year-old World War II veteran. Authorities said the coroner determined three drugs were in the yogurt, including Oxycontin.

Koency was found dead in his bedroom in Laguna Niguel last September. The motive for Koency's suicide was not immediately released, but prosecutors said he was not terminally ill, bedridden or immobile. However, investigators said he was depressed and they found information on voluntary euthanasia on his table.

Prosecutors said Barrett and Koency met a few years ago and would occasionally meet socially at Starbucks as part of a larger group.

On Sept. 30, Barrett allegedly drove Koency to make funeral arrangements, then drove him back to his home. That's when prosecutors said she prepared and gave the Oxycontin-laced yogurt to Koency, who ate it, went into his bedroom, laid down and died.

Prosecutors allege Barrett called 911 after she removed Koency's war medals from his home and placed them in her car. Authorities said what the suspect didn't know was that there was a motion-activated camera inside Koency's home that captured what she did.

"Once they reviewed the footage, they noticed the suspect was crushing something, putting it into a container and then giving it to the victim," said Jim Amormino, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Authorities allege Barrett, who says she's a social worker, initially told investigators when she left, Koency was alive. She said she returned hours later and found his body.

"When investigators confronted her, showed her the footage, then she admitted she did give these medications to the victim," Amormino said.

Neighbors were in disbelief over what happened to Koency.

"I was shocked because he looked healthy," said Aine Fischer, a neighbor.

Barrett was charged with one felony count of assisted suicide. She is being held on $25,000 bail.

Barrett faces a maximum sentence of three years in state prison if convicted. Her arraignment date has not yet been set.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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