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Retired Palm Coast Nurse Accused of Suffocating Husband, a Cop, in Hospital Bed

| August 29, 2016

Jan Sochalski

Palm Coast’s Jan Sochalski in this morning’s image from the Volusia County jail, and three years ago in an image from one of her two previous arrests in Flagler County.

Henry “Butch” Sochalski Jr., 64, and his wife Jan Sochalski, 61, had lived in their Palm Coast home at 71 Ethan Allen Drive 13 years. They’d moved down from New Jersey. Jan was a nurse for 40 years. Henry was a cop.

Today, Jan was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the death of her husband on May 19 at Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center in Daytona Beach. Jan is accused of suffocating Henry to death three weeks after she had threatened hospital staff taking care of Henry that she’d bring his gun to the hospital and shoot staffers dead, because she was dissatisfied with the care he was receiving.

Jan Sochalski has twice been arrested in Flagler County—for grand theft and shoplifting. On Monday, she was arrested by Daytona Beach police  as a result of the investigation into her husband’s death, and is being held at the Volusia County Branch Jail without bond.

Henry had gone to the hospital for elective back surgery, which took place on April 7. He’d had a similar surgery in February. He was expected to make a full recovery, the arrest report states. He was put on dilaudid, a pain-control medication, as he recovered at the hospital. Henry could administer his own medication by pushing a button. Staff members had to ask Jan not to dispense the medication to Henry.

In at least one instance when the pain medication was checked, “it was found to have been pressed 264 times in an 8-hour period, whereas it should have only been pressed 6 times an hour,” the report states. The machine has a built-in mechanism that ostensibly ensures that no more medication is dispensed than amounts prescribed, even if the button is pressed more often.

On April 9, however, Henry went into respiratory and cardiac arrest and had been non-responsive since: that is, he went into a coma. On May 11, he was moved to what’s called “comfort care” at the hospital. Comfort care relieves a patient’s suffering and eases the way to the end of life. Around that time, Jan asked medical staff for medication that would “decrease” Henry’s respiration, according to the report. She was told that that was essentially asking for Henry to be killed. She was not given such medication.

Two days later, he was moved to a progressive care unit—a step down from intensive care, and five days after that, Jan signed a Do Not Resuscitate directive.

That day, there was an unexplained incident when Jan refused to let medical staff enter her husband’s room. The same day, she had asked staff for saline. No saline was given her.

The following morning at 2 a.m., after being with her husband all day, Jan had a conversation with a  nurse, saying she’d be going home to Palm Coast to sleep. Both agreed Henry was deteriorating rapidly, and that the end was near. Jan returned a few hours later.

At 8:30, a heart monitor alerted nurses at their station that something was wrong with Henry. Several members of the medical staff went to the room. When one nurse entered the room with a so-called crash cart, she saw that Henry’s oxygen mask had been moved to the side and that Jan was “hovering over the victim’s head and neck,” according to the report. Jan was “laying on top of the victim,” with her hands on top of Henry.

Henry Sochalski was pronounced dead at 8:30 a.m. that May 19.

Staff noticed that his bed had been flattened, whereas it had been previously left at a 45-degree angle so Henry’s head would be raised. Another nurse noticed that Henry’s nose was purple. An hour and a half earlier, the nurse had checked on him and he appeared normal. Yet another nurse would tell detectives that when she entered the room, she noticed Jan as if “pinching the victim’s nose” as she hovered over him.

After Henry’s death Jan appeared rushed and immediately requested a copy of his death certificate. When detectives spoke to her about the circumstances surrounding Henry’s death, she said that she had moved the bed down flat and moved the humidifier around his throat because she could hear his breathing slowing down, and she wanted to be near him. She said she’d been hugging Henry around the neck and head.

The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide caused by asphyxiation. The autopsy was performed on May 20. On Aug. 18, a forensic investigator at the medical examiner’s office got a call from Jan, who asked him if he could tell if Henry had been brain dead when he died. Jan told him that “she wanted to make sure that she made the right decision,” according to the report.

Interviewed by a detective this morning at the Daytona Beach Police Department, Jan Sochalski said she’d had no intention of suffocating her husband, nor had she done so, or done anything to cause his death. They’d been married 44 years.

Henry had spent 25 years as a cop on the streets of Trenton before his 2003 retirement. A motorcycle enthusiast, he’d been an executive officer of the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club.

Henry’s brief obituary appeared in the pages of the Trenton Times on May 22. He died, the obituary began, “surrounded by his loving family at Florida Memorial Hospital.”

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3 Responses for “Retired Palm Coast Nurse Accused of Suffocating Husband, a Cop, in Hospital Bed”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Munchhausen-by-proxy. Well, she’s getting attention now, isn’t she? But not the sympathetic kind she apparently craves. To say this woman has an impulse control problem is understating it, to say the least. I hope they drug tested her, upon her arrest. God knows what she has done to patients under her care in the past. That should be explored by the prosecution as well.

  2. Mark says:

    My crystal ball says there will be a movie about this.

  3. lane doe says:

    So much of this story doesn’t make sense. Why wasn’t anything done when she threatened to” bring a gun and shoot the staffers dead?” Why would she be allowed to be with the patient alone if she was making such threats?
    As a nurse she would have known that her husbands pain control device wouldn’t allow for him to receive more medicine then prescribed, so what would be the point of hitting the buttons so frequently.
    Why did he go downhill in the first place after a routine surgery.I understand there are risk but still what happened?
    The nurse stated that the wife asked for medicine to be given to her husband to decrease his breathing, which they refused. But then had no problem with her signing the do not resuscitate order.I understand that the next of kin can do this but is she was already acting like she was trying to hasten his death I would have some problems with this.
    Also, if a Do not resuscitate order was in place, why would a “crash cart” be brought into his room when he started to fail?
    The hospital is making all these claims about the wifes behavior but did nothing about it when it was happening.
    It is possible that her comment about “if she did the right thing” was referring to the DNR order. And She may have been actually hugging her husband as he was dying.
    From the story the wife seems troubled , no doubt, but this whole story doesn’t seem right to me.
    What kind of a relationship did they have? Were they known to be close, were they always fighting? Could her comments about the gun have been said in anguish because her husband went in to the hospital for a routine surgery and now was on his deathbed and she felt they were to blame? Is that why the hospital didn’t call the police then and there?
    Like I said something smells fishy here.

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