State confirms bag and drugs killed woman Death certificate says someone else took part

October 22, 1998|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF Sun staff reporter Nancy Youssef contributed to this article.

The death of a 90-year-old Columbia woman, which has raised the issue of assisted suicide, was caused by someone putting a plastic bag over her head after she took high levels of drugs, according to the state medical examiner's office.

A death certificate obtained yesterday shows that Helen V. Fishback died Sept. 7 because of a "plastic bag secured over [her] head by another person."

That death certificate also states that "drug intoxication" contributed to her death. It doesn't specify what drugs.

Prosecutors plan to take the case before a grand jury in late November. Suspected of involvement, police said, is the woman's son, William V. Fishback, 68.

Howard County State's Attorney Marna L. McLendon has said little about the case. William Fishback's attorney, Fredric G. Antenberg, said only that that his client "is a kind and decent man who deeply loved his mother."

Authorities found the woman on a bed in her and her son's apartment with a plastic grocery bag around her head, officials familiar with the investigation said.

Detectives also found an audiotape recording in which Helen Fishback stated her desire to die and the son could be heard crying, the officials said.

Her death has focused attention on assisted suicide, for which there's no specific Maryland law.

Little is known about the family. Fishback, a former housemother for football players at the University of Kentucky, had been living with her son for 11 years, family friends said.

Pub Date: 10/22/98

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