A man accused of manslaughter in the death of a fellow resident at a Niagara-on-the-Lake nursing home has died prior to his case being heard in court.
Robert Barry Stroeh, originally from Port Colborne, died Oct. 11 at the Niagara Long Term Care Residence facility on Wellington Street. He was 75.
A brief family obituary notice published online says Stroeh was predeceased by his wife Susan and his stepson Mike, and is survived by sons Eric and Kurt, and stepson Craig. The notice encourages donations to the Alzheimer’s Society.
The entire incident appears to have been a tragedy for the families of both the victim and the accused.
In 2019, when the facility was still owned by Chartwell Retirement Residences, Stroeh was charged after a 94-year-old woman was pushed and fell. Stroeh apparently had “serious cognitive issues.”
The victim, Verna Traina, was injured on the evening of Aug. 9, 2019, and died 11 days later on Aug. 20 at Greater Niagara General Hospital in Niagara Falls.
There were several court appearances in the case over the past two years but it was continually delayed and was still a long way from getting to trial.
From the outset, the case was handled in an unusual manner by Niagara Regional Police.
While the incident occurred in August 2019, police never revealed that someone had died in a NOTL nursing home at the hand of another resident and that officers were investigating it for nearly three months as a possible homicide.
After inquiries by The Lake Report in early November of that year, police finally released some details but refused to identify which long-term facility was involved. But a Chartwell official at the time confirmed it happened at the company’s NOTL location.
However, despite the police department’s reluctance to release much information in November 2019, an earlier public report to the Niagara Police Services Board on Sept. 26, 2019, contained several details about the case.
The report stated that a woman at the Wellington Street facility was pushed by a male resident and fell, suffering a serious, life-threatening injury that eventually proved fatal.
The report said the incident occurred at about 7:45 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 9, and police responded to the incident the next day, Aug. 10.
Minutes of that September police board meeting state there were no plans to file any charges in the case.
“An investigation into all the circumstances in this matter, including the fact that the (then) 73-year-old male was identified as having serious cognitive issues, and in consultation with the Crown attorney’s office, it has been determined that charges will not be laid,” the document says.
The report is from Niagara deputy police chief Brett Flynn, who was acting chief in the absence of Chief Bryan MacCulloch.
A little over a month later, however, charges were laid.
At the time, Stephanie Sabourin, media relations specialist for the Niagara Regional Police, said as the investigation continued, following a review and further consultation with the Crown attorney, it was decided that a charge of manslaughter was appropriate.