‘That’s not the way she should’ve died’: Penn Yan woman killed by husband with dementia, police say

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PENN YAN, N.Y. — A murder investigation has rocked the village of Penn Yan.

Police say 89-year-old Jane Salyer was killed by her husband, Ronald Salyer, also 89. Investigators say he has dementia and remains at Geneva General Hospital.

News10NBC spoke with the police chief and a neighbor who found the body in the bathroom of the couple’s home. Alongside her was her husband, who was in pretty bad shape but alive.

Jessica Paquette is the Jane Salyer’s neighbor and hairstylist. She went next door looking for her neighbor because she missed her hair appointment.

“I was with their home health aide when they were not answering the door. So we went around to the back door and it was opened,” she said.

When they went into the home, she couldn’t believe her eyes.

“Very shocked. And I just wanted to get out of there because I knew she was gone,” Paquette said. “There was a lot of chaos in the house. Chairs flipped over, blankets on the floor. The house was in a little bit of disarray, so I knew that it wasn’t right.”

Penn Yan police believe the victim was strangled by her husband with a bath towel.

“When we arrived on scene there was still a bath towel around the female neck. It appeared that she had been strangled. The husband had injuries to his hands that were consistent with pulling on something that was bruising on his hands. That appeared that he was the one who had done that,” said Penn Yan Police Chief Thomas Dunham.

The chief said the couple are believed to have been on the bathroom floor for at least two days. He said the last time someone is known to have had contact with them was Aug. 26.

Police say the husband has dementia, and that he likely will face charges.

“No one expects this to happen with their family. By all accounts, the female involved here, the 89-year-old female, was in good health and with it and physically able and the husband had a severe case of dementia,” Dunham said.

Paquette is still trying to wrap her head around what happened.

“That’s not the way she should’ve died. She was a lovely lady, and I know that they had many beautiful years together. And if he was in his right mind, he would not have done that,” she said.

Paquette says the couple were very friendly and very active in their church. She says the victim loved to sew and her husband had a passion for gardening and feeding animals. But she says what they loved more than anything were her children, grandchildren and great-grandkids.

Meanwhile, Dunham said Ronald Salyer is unable to communicate.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Salyer family. We understand this is a trying time and they are not only grieving the loss of a mother but also the hospitalization of their father,” Dunham said.