VERNON - Families on both sides of a tragic care home assault resulting in the death of a Vernon man agree prosecution was not the answer.
This week, the Crown announced it would not be pursuing charges against John “Jack” Furman, 95, who was arrested and accused of murdering his roommate, 85-year-old William May, in August at a dementia care ward in Vernon. Crown counsel stated there was no public interest in prosecuting Furman, a frail, mentally ill and old man who doesn’t even remember the assault and struggles to understand his current situation.
The news brought relief to Judy Barnett, a relative on Furman’s deceased wife’s side of the family.
“I’ve known him since I was little. He always teased us kids. I went out working at 15 at his motel in Hope,” Barnett says.
Barnett lives in Alberta, but came out to visit Furman at his Vernon home just weeks before the assault. His memory seemed clear, and he was his old jokester self. She didn’t even know his move to Polson Special Care was in the works.
“I must’ve picked an awesome day because he talked all about the old times,” Barnett says. “I couldn’t believe after visiting him, such a short time later he’d moved into a home.”
Fast-forward to the present, and Furman doesn’t remember who Barnett is. A friend who visits him once a week at the Hillside Centre psychiatric facility in Kamloops reports he’s healthy physically, but his memory is fading from the dementia.
“I guess he’s not with us anymore,” Barnett says. “His house is up for sale, he won’t move back. He’ll have to stay there for the rest of his time. They won’t move him any place else. There’s no place they can move him, he does still get aggressive at times.”
Scott May, whose father William shared a room with Furman for only three days prior to the assault, says he agrees with the Crown’s decision to drop the charges.
"We have no animosity toward Mr. Furman and find no value in seeing him prosecuted. He will be held securely for what remains of his life and as long as he is held in a manner that does not put others at risk, we are satisfied,” May says.
“It’s not in the public interest and that’s what we said long ago. From what I understand, he doesn’t have a lot of life left. He could go any time.”
May says his two brothers, the rest of their family, and those who knew their dad are healing and moving on.
Meanwhile, Interior Health is wrapping up its internal investigation of the incident. Darshan Lindsay, spokesperson for IHA, says the findings have been brought to staff for feedback and discussion.
The investigation is considered to be a quality review, designed to help improve services. Section 51 of the B.C. Evidence Act prohibits the release of certain information contained in the review, so not all, if any, of the findings will be released. Lindsay says these confidentiality provisions are in place to encourage staff to share information more freely.
“We recognize there is a public interest and are looking at what we may be able to share,” Lindsay says.
May’s family has been in touch with Interior Health regarding the review and what details might be shared. In an August press conference, the three sons said they hope the health authority will look at ways to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again. Scott May says they still have some questions for Interior Health about the night their dad died, but are moving forward.
“Our questions will be more about the future,” he says.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.