LAGUNA NIGUEL (CBS)— Orange County sheriff’s deputies arrested a 65-year-old woman for allegedly assisting an 85-year-old Laguna Niguel man in committing suicide.

Sheriff’s spokesman Jim Amormino said Jack Koency died Sept. 30, 2001, but an investigation showed that Elizabeth Barrett, who identified herself as a social worker, helped him die by giving him a cocktail of prescription drugs.

“What she did is the opposite of what we expect decent people to do,” said prosecutor Ebrahim Baytich. “We expect decent people when they see somebody like that to pick up the phone, call 911 and say, ‘Hey, I know this individual. He wants to harm himself, he wants to kill himself.’ She did the exact opposite. She helped him and that’s a crime.”

Authorities said Koency’s death initially appeared to be routine, but investigators noticed a few things that made them curious.

They discovered that Koency had pre-arranged for his ashes to be scattered at sea by the Neptune Society and found an address for an euthanasia association at his home.

Detectives discovered a motion-triggered video camera in Koency’s apartment. They said the images recorded show Barrett crushing some pills and putting them in yogurt for him.

Officials said Barrett can be seen on tape removing Koency’s war medals after his death.

A post-mortem analysis showed Koency died from a combination of Oxycodone, Fluoxetine and Alprazolam, Amormino said. These powerful drugs are used to treat pain, depression and anxiety.

“I mean, no, I never saw a sad part about him,” neighbor Nancy Cunningham said. “It’s tragic, because he really was a very nice man and kind…I just can’t imagine him doing something like this.”

Barrett told police that said she had been with Koency that day but had not given him any medication. When confronted with the video, she admitted to giving him the mixture and helping him commit suicide.

Officials said assisting with a suicide can be punishable with approximately three years in state prison.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

Comments (18)
  1. Alan Hart says:

    Never talk to the police. I’ll say it again, never talk to the police. ALWAYS have a lawyer present if you have to be interviewed by the police! Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Notice it doesn’t say used FOR you in a court of law.

    1. Russ says:

      Some day I hope our laws let people who want to die do so. If you don’t want to live anymore, you should be able to do whatever you want to end your life. Including having someone help you. It’s pure idiocy to make someone go on living just for your own personal desires. Let them move on. I know that at some point I’m going to get alhtiemers, when it happens, I want to be able to end my life. No one should have to live that way.

  2. John West says:

    Assisted suicide is legal in 4 states, and California SHOULD be the next state to pass a law allowing people to end their suffering with dignity. People shouldn’t have to become “criminals” by helping their friends and loved ones when asked. On “Good Morning America” and NPR and elsewhere, I discussed all the issues, and how I assisted my own parents’ deaths (in my book “The Last Goodnights”). For more info, please visit:

  3. Say what? says:

    In the State of California it’s called murder John West!

    Like it or not, assisted suicide is against the law here in California and is labeled as murder.

    Try not to sugar~coat it to much in your next book.

    1. TESHI says:

      Say What?
      Murder is harsh and not fitting to this case. She did not attack this man, cut him up and collect his checks!! She helped a man who was at his last days of willfully wanting to live. And I think your thoughts are a bit construed on what should be. The taking of a life has differing degrees and charges, Murder is not what would be in this case. (sorry)
      In this case you have to look at all the info. Obviously HE wanted to die, she was a confidant and he trusted her, to help him. They knew it was illegal, and so with nowhere to turn he asked for help. Suicide is a very touchy issue, but he, being 87 years old, lived his life, was alone and had no one, he was at the end of his journey and if he wanted to end his life, for more than stated reasons, then why should she be held accountable for helping this man, die the way he wanted. Yes it is illegal here, and in other states where it is legal you have to be terminal, with no chance of survival. I think maybe manslaughter; to the second degree would be the most they will pursue. Murder, no… He plotted to kill himself, looked for ways and asked for help. The bad or evil intent for murder is lacking and should not be used in situations like these. Obviously HE wanted to die, set the wheels in motion and went to a trusting friend to help him.
      We should change the laws here. We should have a “Right To Die Act”, OR “Die with Dignity Act” where terminally ill, or elderly have that right to choose their ending. Why die alone in a nursing home, with strangers who are paid to care for you? Why die in a hospital after chemo kills your body, tubes and machines surrounding you? Shouldn’t you be able to pick a beautiful peaceful place, home, beach, at sea, etc… to say good bye, while you can still talk, hug and share your last memories. Give you loved ones a beautiful goodbye. Or being an elderly lonely person be able to set your last rights, take care of your last business and peacefully leave this world?

  4. duh says:

    This is the most extreme and arrogant example of how human beings try to control other human beings. We are all stalked by death, and not being able to choose our own demise in a quick and painless way, is too absurd for words. We are not an endangered species, far from it, and allowing those who want to exit to do so won’t make us an endangered species anytime soon. I understand the law, and would abide by it by NOT assisting someone, but I don’t agree with that law, and would actively support it being changed.

  5. Todd says:

    I always wondered by what right or definition is it illegal to commit suicide or to help someone do it? You can encourage them to continue living obviously. But if they are determined to end their life, by what right does anyone have in stopping them?

  6. chell says:

    if he wanted to die then i dont see why shes in trouble. we arent meant to live forever and if he wasnt happy then i say be done with it!! kuddos to her for doing the RIGHT thing

  7. Rachel says:

    I have conflicting beliefs about the topic. Our lives and deaths are not only our own but also belong to the world we live in. We All of our decisions affect the lives and order of those we are or could be connected to. So, cutting our lives short by choosing to die on our own terms with dignity and love seems kind of selfish. but on the other hand, I saw my grandmother suffer for years while everyone wanted her to keep fighting. All I wanted was for her to be able to quit if she was ready with the love and support of all of us. Sadly, she did quit when she was too tired but not in a environment of love and being able to say goodbye. It’s a hard moral question. Then there is the spiritual/religious aspect which (in most belief systems) agrees that taking your own life is akin to blasphemy against God (as you know & call him/her/it). I dont know whats right, people must ultimately decide and face whatever consequence on their own in this issue.

    1. Leesa says:

      I agree with you here, it is a touching, conflicting situation but we play God every day by prolonging people’s lives with machinery and medication. To me, this is the same thing.

  8. Leesa says:

    They found euthanasia info in his home? Leave her alone. Leave it alone. He went the way he wanted to. Too bad we treat our pets better in the end stages than our humans.

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