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Town of Tonawanda woman, 83, takes plea in fatal beating of husband

An elderly woman accused of fatally beating her 89-year-old husband last summer in their Town of Tonawanda home has pleaded not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect.

Phyllis Eson, 83, entered the plea Wednesday in front of State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia.

The judge ordered mental health exams for the defendant, who was in a wheelchair, and set a hearing for June 3 to determine if she is dangerously mentally ill, mentally ill or neither.

Based on that determination, she may be placed in a secure or nonsecure mental health facility for treatment. She is now being held without bail at the Erie County Holding Center.

Assistant District Attorney Colleen Curtin Gable said the prosecution agreed to the plea after a prosecution psychiatrist examined Eson and found that she lacked the capacity to understand the consequences of her actions when she attacked Norman Eson on July 6 in their home on Hawthorne Avenue.

The prosecutor also noted that two defense psychologists who examined Eson found that she was suffering from dementia, was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and was unable to take care of her aging husband, who had Alzheimer’s.

She said the plea was in satisfaction of the indictment, which charged Eson with first-degree manslaughter.

If the case had gone to trial, Curtin Gable said, she would have presented a videotaped statement that Eson gave to town police after they were called to the Esons’ home to check on their welfare.

When they arrived, police said, Phyllis Eson opened the door and had blood on her clothes. Her husband’s bloodied body was found on the floor.

An autopsy determined that he died from blunt-force injuries to the head.

Curtin Gable said Eson admitted that she hit her husband on the head with a remote control device, a cellphone and her hands and that she bit his fingers and nose. She later grabbed her husband by his T-shirt and dragged him across the floor, hitting his head on the baseboard and causing bleeding, according to the prosecutor.

Eson called family and friends to ask for help, and they told her to call 911, but she didn’t, Curtin Gable said. Someone eventually called 911.

In the meantime, Curtin Gable said, Eson used a mop to clean up the bloody scene.

Daniel P. Grasso, Eson’s attorney, said he had explained the consequences of the plea to his client and that she was competent to enter the plea.

He said he told Eson, a Canadian citizen who is in the United States illegally, that she might face deportation to Canada if and when she is released. He said she told him that she wants to stay in this country.

Grasso said she has no family in Buffalo and that her elderly sisters who live in Canada are unable to take care of her.

Before accepting the plea, the judge asked Curtin Gable if she had consulted with the victim’s family. The prosecutor said she had talked with Norman Eson’s brother and that he was aware of the plea proceedings and the possible outcome.

Eson and her husband, a retired pharmacist, had lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, for most of their adult lives, according to a family member. But from 2000 to 2006 they lived in Fort Myers, Fla., then moved to Allentown, Pa., before coming here.