A 78-year-old suspect accused of killing a frail 94-year-old woman now faces charges for aggravated manslaughter instead of murder.
Although an autopsy ruled Bessie Borth died of suffocation, she also suffered a stroke, a prosecutor said Tuesday. The case against accused killer Geraldine Shockley hinges on that.
“If (the stroke) didn’t kill her, then she suffocated her,” prosecutor Tim Register said. He said aggravated manslaughter "encompasses both theories of death" — the possibility Shockley smothered the life out of Borth, and the chance that she simply let her die when her brain failed.
Autopsy photos of Borth’s brain showed a large hole, and investigators say Shockley knew she was suffering but didn't intervene.
"Our first theory as to how she died is that she was suffocated," Register said. "However, if she did not die of suffocation, she had to have died from a stroke," and Shockley did nothing to help her.
Shockley was arrested on an open count of murder in September, when sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call from her home in Panama City Beach and found Borth dead on the floor.
Shockley said she fell. Suspicious Bay County sheriff’s investigators later said Shockley shoved Borth down a makeshift step and, seconds later, smothered her face with a throw pillow.
The longtime caretaker had been stealing money by writing large checks from Borth’s account, the Sheriff’s Office charged. They initially estimated she took $18,000.
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