Last Updated: 7:28 p.m.
A 77-year-old woman who’d been a patient at Gold Choice Assisted Living and Memory Care in Palm Coast was beaten and choked to death by another patient overnight, and was only discovered by a staffer during rounds early this morning.
The alleged assailant, Cliff Mody, 72, has “admitted to killing the victim,” according to a Flagler County Sheriff’s release.
At a press conference this afternoon, Chief Kim Burroughs, the sheriff’s head of investigations, said Mody was still at the facility’s memory care unit as the agency was working with the state Attorney’s Office on charges. It is unusual that a suspect who has admitted to a killing is not readily arrested. Burroughs said he was in a secure facility, but did not have details about his proximity to other patients.
Later this afternoon, the Sheriff’s Office announced that Mody was charged with second degree murder and booked at the Flagler County jail.
Both patients were in the locked down memory care section of the facility–a standard part of many assisted living facilities where patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s and other memory-related complications are housed, and where attention and staffing ratios tend to be higher.
Mody reportedly told authorities that the woman wandered into his room. He was cooperative with authorities, but facility personnel told investigators that he had once attacked another patient, and was moved to the memory care section after that.
Authorities’ delay in charges may have reflected some hesitation about the kind of charges they want to bring forth, given the unusual nature of the incident and what very likely involves mental capacity–and incapacity–issues. Mody would likely be determined to be incompetent to stand trial if he faces a murder charge, and his sanity is by definition in question since he was being housed in a memory care facility, where patients typically are not in full control of their capacities.
Gold Choice Palm Coast, at 3830 Old Kings Road, opened a little over a year ago. It is one of three privately owned gold Choice facilities in the region, with others in Ormond Beach and Deltona.
“The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office is investigating and that is all of the details we’re able to give at this time,” Melissa Marton, the building administrator at the Palm Coast facility, said this afternoon.
“Our fully-secured memory care wing allows residents to experience independence and choose how to spend their time, all with the security of staff monitoring,” the company’s website states, regarding the Palm Coast facility.
Audio: The 911 Call
The victim was discovered a little after 2 a.m. by a staffer, and was pronounced dead shortly after that. Facility staff contacted 911.
A staffer reported that the woman had wandered into Mody’s room, “and I guess he had choked her out. She has expired,” the staffer told the dispatcher. The staffer said Mody “had blood on his hands and she had a busted lip. I could look at her as soon as I walked in and she was expired.” The staffer told the dispatcher she had been trying to get in touch with her bosses, but had been unsuccessful so far–an alarming detail.
“She wandered in my room, she wandered in my room,” the staffer said Mody told staff. “I’m just beside myself,” the staffer said.
The staffer added that Cody had been moved to the memory care side of the building two weeks ago after “we had a problem once in attacking somebody. I don’t know why they just didn’t have him leave.” Just then, deputies arrived at the facility.
“Deputies arrived to find the female victim on the bed in the suspect’s room with facial injuries, not breathing and unconscious,” the sheriff’s release states. “We are dedicated to providing as much independence as is possible for your loved one while still providing 24-hour a day monitoring in our Memory Care unit.”
“This is an unfortunate situation for all families involved, especially the victim’s,” Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said. “The Major Case Unit is still working the investigation and charges are pending. This is a very sad outcome for the victim and her family and our thoughts and prayers are with her family.”
Assisted living facilities are licensed and regulated by the state Agency for Health Care Administration. Records show that the city approved the development of Gold Choice in September 2019. Gold Choice in Palm Coast was licensed on Nov. 30, 2020, for 100 beds. It was last inspected on Oct. 5, 2021. “Deficiencies were not identified at the time of the visit,” the one-page report states. The company is registered under the name of Palm Coast ALF Management LLC with the Division of Corporations. It is registered to Derick Deeter of Lake Mary.
The sheriff’s release added this note: “The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office strongly encourages residents to thoroughly investigate any facility entrusted with the care of a family member. Research facilities and professionals by visiting www.FloridaHealth.gov/licensing-and-regulation.