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    Body found in a pool at facility

    Neighbors at Sago Palms say the 75-year-old, whose body was found fully dressed, was depressed.

    By DEBORAH O'NEIL

    © St. Petersburg Times, published November 14, 2000


    LARGO -- Dorothy Crawford's neighbors worried about the 75-year-old who lived alone in a corner apartment at Imperial Palms.

    For weeks at a time, Crawford would hole up in her apartment with the television on, refusing to get out of bed. Evening meals she paid to have delivered would pile up at her doorstep, uneaten. Neighbors noticed she was losing weight.

    "She was very depressed," said Lillian McDonough, 55, who lived next door. "We thought she needed help."

    Crawford, they said, never went near the swimming pool behind her apartment. But Monday she was found dead in another nearby swimming pool.

    Police said they believe she drowned and no foul play is suspected.

    Crawford was fully dressed but her shoes were sitting by a poolside table, said Largo Police spokeswoman Lt. Carla Boudrot. They also found a towel at the bottom of the rectangular pool, which is 6 feet at the deep end.

    "She might have gone out to dip her toes and dropped her towel and tried to go in and get it," Boudrot said. "We don't know."

    About a month ago, neighbors said, Crawford fell and injured herself in her apartment and was taken to a nursing home for rehabilitation. Then she moved to the Sago Palms assisted-living facility, a 48-bed center that is part of the sprawling Palms of Largo retirement community off Keene Road that includes Imperial Palms.

    Crawford was last seen alive at about 3 a.m. Monday when a staff member at Sago Palms spotted her outside her apartment. She was escorted back to her apartment, said Donna Weimer, regional director of operations for the Sage Co. of Minneapolis, the parent company of Sago Palms. Crawford did not suffer from dementia and was not confused, Weimer said.

    But she was gone when staff members delivered breakfast at 6:30 a.m., Weimer said. A maintenance worker found her a short time later in the East Clubhouse pool. Monday, signs were posted on the gates: Swimming Pool Closed.

    Crawford was free to come and go from the assisted-living facility, said Pat Glynn, spokesman for the Agency for Health Care Administration, which licenses assisted-living facilities.

    "I don't think there's anything the facility could have done or was expected to do to prevent this from happening," Glynn said. "It's a tragic incident."

    The facility has been licensed since November 1997; since then, the state has investigated one complaint there. In December 1997, a resident told authorities he didn't like his roommate and the matter was resolved and the case was closed, Glynn said.

    "It really is a clean facility from the standpoint of complaints," Glynn said. "We haven't had many issues."

    Mary Murphy, 74, who lived across the street from Crawford in Imperial Palms, recalled how once she had discovered Crawford lying in the street near a bus stop at Imperial Palms. Murphy said Crawford, who used a walker or cane, lost her balance and couldn't get up.

    "I knew she was lonesome because after I picked her up she said . . . "I'm awful lonesome, wouldn't you come out and talk with me a while?' " Murphy said.

    Her neighbor Frank Slater said her family gathered at Imperial Palms this summer to throw her a 75th birthday party at the pool clubhouse. Family members could not be reached by the Times.

    Slater said Crawford would sometimes invite him to chat on her screened lanai. "My wife's name was Dorothy, and she passed away, so there was sort of a connection," Slater said. "She just wanted companionship I think. She was alone and I was alone."

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