A 66-year-old Queens nursing home resident was charged with murder Friday morning, after allegedly beating his roommate to death with a wheelchair leg rest during an argument over the curtain divider between their beds. The alleged murderer wanted the curtain closed; the victim wanted it to stay open.
According to a press release sent out Friday by Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown’s office, Thomas Yarnavick was a resident of the Beacon Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Rockaway Park. He was found just after 1 a.m. on Wednesday, October 30, standing next to 71-year-old Jailall Singh’s bed, covered in blood, holding an equally bloody metal wheelchair leg rest. (The D.A.’s office does not specify who discovered the two men.) Singh, who was lying face-up, was also bloodied.
Yarnavick allegedly threw the leg rest into a hamper, where it was later recovered. The DA’s office says he told homicide detectives, “I just killed him.” According to the New York Times, Singh was still alive when the two men were discovered. He was taken to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, where he died a short while later.
The Times also reports that the fight was over a curtain divider between the two men’s beds, which Yarnavick wanted drawn, for more privacy, and Singh preferred open. (Singh is not identified in the Times report, which was published before the man’s next of kin was notified.f) The Daily News reported the next day that Yarnavick had been taken to Bellevue Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation before he was arraigned.
Yarnavick was formally charged Friday morning with second-degree murder and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon. He faces 25 years to life if convicted. He’ll return to court December 4; in the meantime, according to police records, he’s being held without bail at the NYPD’s infirmary unit in East Elmhurst.
Beacon Rehab Center was previously known as Ocean Promenade Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center; although it has changed names since last year, it doesn’t appear to have changed ownership. A Beacon spokesman, Aaron Lichtman, told the NYT that the facility had been hard hit by Hurricane Sandy, and that repairs to the facility had only recently been completed. A Times article from last year reported that Promenade was being investigated by the state for its response during the storm, specifically allegations that residents were evacuated and dumped in emergency shelters without their medical records or staff escorts. The home’s manager was reported to have left town on personal business as the storm approached.
The New York State Department of Health’s records for the nursing home are a mess; it has been inspected twice in the past year, under the names Beacon Rehab and Ocean Promenade, and each of the inspection reports singles out slightly different issues. As Beacon, the home has had an above-average number of health and safety deficiencies in the last four years, compared with other nursing homes in the state. As Ocean Promenade, it has an average number of deficiencies. The federal Medicare website ranks the home as “below average,” and says it’s seriously understaffed.
The full press release from the D.A.’s office regarding Singh’s murder is on the following page.
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