An 87-year-old nursing home resident who fell to his death while trying to climb down a makeshift rope from his third-floor window was remembered Monday as a man who used to give neighbors gardening tips and play guitar.
William Strasner, whose death Monday morning appears to be accidental, had used a rope of bedsheets and clothing in an attempt to lower himself when he fell about 34 feet into a parking lot at Emerald South Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, Buffalo Police Capt. Jeffrey Rinaldo said.
Strasner, a longtime Buffalo resident, apparently was trying to escape Emerald South at 1175 Delaware Ave. He was discovered lying in the facility's parking lot at 6 a.m. by an employee. Strasner died in an ambulance while en route to a hospital.
The sliding window in Strasner's room was only supposed to open 7 inches, Rinaldo said. A nut-and-bolt system was supposed to prevent the window from opening wide enough for a person to get out of it. Homicide detectives, the captain said, are investigating why the window did not function properly.
"He was a scrapper and he did home repairs. I never saw him with any relatives," said Marlon Redmond, a former neighbor of Strasner when he resided in the 100 block of Herman Street. "He was a nice enough guy who cared about people."
Redmond said Strasner had maintained a small vegetable patch in the yard at the Herman Street house. "He grew turnip greens and cabbage and would share his gardening skills with others," Redmond said.
Strasner's former landlady, Amelia Sims, said he used to play guitar and sing spiritual songs when he lived on Herman Street more than a decade ago. He didn't have a car; he rode a bicycle everywhere. Strasner had no children, she said.
"It's a shame. He was a very nice guy," Sims said of Strasner.
Chief of Detectives Dennis J. Richards said detectives are attempting to contact a legal guardian appointed to look after Strasner.
"He has no known local relatives," Richards said, adding that "the homicide squad is continuing to investigate what happened prior to the incident."
Nursing home staff said they checked Strasner's room approximately 30 minutes before he was found, Rinaldo said.
Rinaldo said police are in the process of obtaining Strasner's medical records from the nursing home and do not know about his mental health.
Homicide detectives will be working with investigators from the state Department of Health, which oversees nursing homes.
State Department of Health spokesman Jeffrey Hammond issued a brief statement: “We are aware of this tragic incident and are investigating. As this remains an active investigation, we cannot comment further.”
When the nursing home was contacted by The News, a woman answering the phone said the facility had "no comment" on the incident.
Emerald South was awarded a two-star overall rating out of a possible five stars by the state Department of Health following its most recent inspection. That is below average.
The 122-bed facility was fined $10,000 by the state in February 2017 in connection with the death of Ruth Murray, an 82-year-old woman who suffered fatal injuries in a beating at the hands of an 84-year-old male resident.
On the morning of Aug. 26, 2016, she mistakenly wandered into a man’s room in the dementia unit, where she also lived, and the attack occurred. Murray suffered a broken neck, several broken ribs, a broken nose, facial fractures and a collapsed lung in the attack. She died three days later.
The state fined Emerald South after determining it had not ensured that each resident receives adequate supervision to prevent such incidents.
The Erie County District Attorney's Office decided not to prosecute Murray's assailant, saying he lacked the mental capacity to participate in a trial and to form criminal intent in the killing of Murray.
Murray's family has sued Emerald South over her death.
"As you know this facility is poorly monitored and staffed. We know this from the Ruth Murray case as well as many other cases," said attorney Don Chiari, a partner at Brown Chiari, which represents Murray's family in their lawsuit. "We are currently in our cases investigating the financial decisions made by those at the top of this company that have serious consequences on patient care, such as in this incident."