Trial of Jim Still’s alleged killer awaits mental capacity ruling

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Spouse sues nursing home and unnamed health workers

GORE BAY—The trial of Joseph Edwards, the man accused in the beating death of 85-year-old Korean War veteran Jim Still, is on hold awaiting a decision by the Ontario Review Board as to whether Mr. Edwards has the mental capacity to stand trial. Meanwhile, Mr. Still’s widow, Ellen Cooper, is suing the Wikwemikong Nursing Home, its parent company, a nurse and a personal support worker (neither of whom are identified in the suit) for $9 million alleging breach of contract in failing to provide Mr. Still with a safe environment.

Mr. Still was a recent resident of the nursing home, having been placed in the home in June 2017, when he was allegedly attacked by Mr. Edwards on August 25 of that same year. Mr. Still died of his injuries five days later on August 30. Mr. Edwards was charged with aggravated assault, with the charges being upgraded to second-degree murder this summer following the coroner’s report and the police investigation.

None of the allegations in Ms. Cooper’s lawsuit have been heard or proven in court. Ms. Cooper’s lawyer, Mark Ansara of Timmins, noted that the defence has 20 days in which to serve him with a statement of defence and that due to the complexity of the case, he anticipates it will likely take the defendants in the suit that long to respond.

“This is not a boilerplate situation,” he said. “This is very new legal ground, at least here in Canada.”

Mr. Ansara said that there was little he could disclose about the suit at this time. “The Law Society has very strict rules in that regard,” he said, but supplied that his client is “an absolute delight, 84 and very sharp.” He also said that he truly regrets not having ever met Mr. Still. “He sounds like a remarkable gentleman.”

The suit maintains that the nursing home failed to provide a safe environment in accordance with an accommodation agreement and the terms of the Long-term Care Homes Act.

Mr. Still was suffering from the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease requiring “special attention, care and assistance.”

Ms. Cooper’s claim notes that “James and his spouse were completely reliant upon the defendants to provide for James’ safety, as well as for his physical, mental and psychological well-being.”

Although the nursing home was allegedly aware of Mr. Edwards’ proclivity to violent behaviour, he was housed in the same semi-private room as Mr. Still. Even after the assault on Mr. Still, Mr. Edwards was once again housed in the nursing home, where he is alleged to have attacked another resident. The suit maintains that the nursing home “knew, or ought to have reasonably known,” that Mr. Edwards would be “an extreme danger to James and other residents.”

A separate incident involving an unidentified nurse is also cited in the suit. It is alleged that individual was verbally abusive to Mr. Still.

It was uncertain as of press time whether other members of Mr. Still’s family have retained legal counsel or are pursuing a legal course themselves.