British Columbia

Murder suspect, 95, to undergo psychiatric evaluation

A 95-year-old veteran who is facing charges for allegedly killing his roommate at a residential care home in Vernon has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment.

John Furman allegedly killed his 85-year-old roommate at Vernon care facility

John Furman, seen here in a photograph on display at the Vernon Museum, is facing charges for allegedly killing his roommate at a residential care home. (CBC)

A 95-year-old veteran who is facing charges for allegedly killing his roommate at a residential care home in Vernon, B.C., has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment.

John Furman, who has been in police custody since his arrest on Sunday, was to appear in court today, but instead his lawyer appeared on his behalf.

Police allege he attacked his 85-year-old roommate on Sunday at Interior Health's Polson Special Care Facility — a secure facility that provides care for people who have dementia complicated by psychiatric and behavioural issues.

The Polson Special Care Facility is in Vernon's Jubilee Hospital. (Interior Health)

The Crown attorney in the case, Howard Pontious, says Furman has advanced Alzheimer's disease and is at a Kamloops psychiatric hospital to undergo an assessment.

Pontious says the Crown will likely drop the murder charge if Furman is found not criminally responsible by mental disorder.

"There was nothing to indicate the man was dangerous. I mean he was 95 years old and he had never been dangerous in his entire life. So how you predict he is going to wake up and commit a violent act when he never has before? I don't know. "

Authorities have not released the name of the 85-year-old victim.

Decorated WWII vet

Furman, a platoon sergeant in an elite commando unit known as the Devil's Brigade during the Second World War, was awarded a Bronze Star medal by the U.S government and a few years ago shared his war experiences with the Memory Project — a Canadian archive of veterans' stories.

The death has sparked criticisms of how seniors with dementia are cared for in B.C.

Kim Carter,  B.C's ombudsperson, completed a review of seniors' care in 2012 which included patients with dementia.

She says that while work is being done by the province, one area of concern is when dementia patients are kept together.

"It produces a particular challenge ... to ensure that there isn't a trigger between them that could, perhaps, cause problems," she said.

Carter said her office also recommended minimum standards be set for staffing across the province, but the province hasn't responded to that recommendation yet.

Vera Shippobotham, whose husband died earlier this summer after he was attacked at a care home in Kamloops, said the province needs to do a better job of protecting seniors with dementia from violence at the hands of other patients.