Elderly man indicted in nursing home killing

file photoJose Veguilla, 83, center, appears in Haverhill District Court in early October after he was charged with killing a 76-year-old resident of the Oxford Rehabilitation and Health Care Center.

An 83-year-old man charged with beating his roommate to death with a metal walker at the Oxford Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Haverhill has been indicted on a first-degree murder charge.

Jose Veguilla now faces arraignment in Salem Superior Court in the near future, following the indictment by the Essex County grand jury.

The penalty for a first-degree murder conviction is life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Veguilla, who was charged after the Oct. 5, 2019, killing, is being held without bail at Bridgewater State Hospital, where he was sent to undergo a mental competency evaluation.

A New Hampshire woman who police said is Boucher’s health care proxy, told investigators that he suffers from dementia, according to a police report.

Veguilla's arraignment in Salem Superior Court is expected in the near future, possibly in the next two weeks, said Carrie Kimball, spokesperson for District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.

Veguilla is accused of swinging a metal walker and hitting his roommate, Robert Boucher, 76, several times in the face and head as he was lying in his bed in their room at Oxford at 689 Main St., according to a police report.

Just after 7:30 that night, a nurse entered the room shared by Veguilla, Boucher and another resident, who was out of the room at the time. Boucher took his medicine from the nurse but Veguilla would not take his, according to the report.

The nurse told police when she was returning to the room she heard a commotion, saw Veguilla holding his walker at shoulder height and Boucher bleeding heavily from his face and head. The nurse told Veguilla to stop and he warned her to leave the room or he would hit her, according to the report.

The report said other staff members called police and a nursing assistant then entered the room and saw Veguilla hit Boucher again with the walker, which was covered in blood.

The nursing assistant talked to Veguilla, who speaks Spanish, and convinced him to leave the room, the report said. He was then escorted by several staff members to a common area, with his walker by his side, according to the report.

Veguilla told the nursing assistant that he thought “it was a setup and he had to kill Boucher,” according to the police report. The report did not elaborate on what Veguilla meant.

The nursing assistant told police that in her times working with Veguilla, she never observed any violent tendencies.

Both Boucher and Veguilla were taken to Holy Family Hospital at Merrimack Valley in Haverhill after the incident. Boucher was pronounced dead and Veguilla was placed under a police watch, investigators said.

At his arraignment, court psychologist Kerry Nelligan, who examined Veguilla, said he has dementia, was disoriented at the hearing and didn’t know what day, month or year it was.

Nelligan said Veguilla has no history of major mental illness, although he did suffer a fall in 2018 that resulted in a traumatic brain injury and that since that time he has been in a number of hospitals and rehabilitation centers.

She said he could not remember if he had a lawyer and thought that she was his lawyer.

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