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Date of Issue: July 05, 2007

95-year-old accused of attempted murder dies

A 95-year-old man accused by police of trying to kill his wife in a Bradenton nursing home died last week.

Freeman Stittsworth of Bradenton, who served on the Holmes Beach city council from 1973 to 1975, died June 27.

Earlier in June, Bradenton police arrested Stittsworth and accused him of attempting to smother to death his wife of 70 years, Ruth Stittsworth, 93.

A Bradenton police report said an employee at Westminster Towers in Bradenton saw Stittsworth holding a pillow over his wife’s head. Ruth Stittsworth suffers from dementia. She and Freeman lived on separate floors at the nursing home.

Freeman Stittsworth was taken to the Manatee County jail and is believed to be the oldest person ever detained at the facility.

He was moved from jail to Manatee Memorial Hospital after suffering a heart attack. In mid-June, a judge declared Stittsworth incapacitated and appointed a guardian to oversee his affairs, including legal and medical care.

But Stittsworth’s health never improved.

Meanwhile, Stittsworth’s arrest remained under review by the state attorney’s office, which, at the time of his death, had not decided whether to file a charge against him. A spokesman with the office said the case now would be closed.

Stittsworth’s relatives last week said that he loved his wife and his arrest contributed to his declining health and death.

The assertions prompted Bradenton police officials to defend the arrest, saying that an employee saw Stittsworth pressing a pillow into his wife’s face and that could not be ignored.

The incident allegedly occurred the day after the nursing home’s director informed Stittsworth that unless he paid past-due bills of $40,000, he and his wife would have to move.

Stittsworth, according to Westminster director Vicki Lawson, said he could cover the debt but didn’t want to pay the money.

Stittsworth and his wife moved to Florida in the 1970s. They lived in the Key Royale community in Holmes Beach for a time.

Stittsworth was to be buried in Ohio, but additional funeral details were pending.