Murder charges against elderly New Jersey woman with dementia dropped

Posted at 8:03 AM, Aug 22, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-22 08:03:20-04

By Laura Ly

(CNN) — Murder charges against an elderly woman with dementia were dropped in New Jersey Superior Court on Monday after evaluations by multiple doctors and experts determined that she was not fit to stand trial.

Judge Terrence Cook dismissed the charges against Fredricka Rosa, 78, in Burlington Superior Court. She was charged with first-degree murder after allegedly shooting her husband, Valpa C. Rosa, in July 2012. She was also charged with unlawful possession of a weapon, according to court documents. Rosa was diagnosed with dementia four years ago.

After Rosa was arrested, she underwent three evaluations by state and defense experts, who deemed her not competent to stand trial due to her dementia. Three doctors were also consulted and came to the same conclusion, said Burlington County Deputy Public Defender Cedric Edwards.

The Burlington County prosecutor’s office did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

“I think that’s appropriate (that charges have been dropped),” Edwards told CNN, noting that Rosa’s dementia had progressed so far that she seemed unaware of why she was in court.

“I’m not even sure she knows her husband is dead. After the hearing, she wanted to know where her husband was,” Edwards said.

Rosa reportedly shot her husband with his own gun. He had four guns — two handguns and two shotguns — that he kept in the house for personal protection, according to her daughter, Rosetta. She said her father obtained gun locks but never used them.

While it is unclear what Fredricka Rosa’s motive was, Edwards believes it may have been connected to abuse that Valpa Rosa reportedly inflicted on his family.

“I get the feeling that they felt the father was overbearing and abusive towards the mother and towards (their children),” Edwards said.

Rosetta Rosa said that her father was physically violent and that he had served jail time for sexually abusing her older sister, who is now deceased. She feels her mother shot her father as a result of her dementia “flaring up” due to his verbal and physical abuse.

She was at the hearing with her mother when charges were dropped, calling the dismissal a “huge relief.”

“Ninety-five percent of the nightmare’s over. I was scared they were going to take my mother,” Rosetta said. “I’m just glad I didn’t have to lose both my parents.”

CNN’s Chris Boyette and Sho Wills contributed to this report.

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