Headlines Call Him a Killer, Friends Remember Him as a Teddy Bear: Possible Mental Health or Medical Connection

On Friday, January 4, 2012 around 4:35am a home on Berg Avenue in Kings Park, NY experienced tragedy leaving a community questioning, “How could this happen?” Kathleen Newcomb, 82 years old, was found dead in her home on Friday morning. Suffolk County Police responded to an  emergency call made by a male who reported that a woman was lying on the floor.

Clarence Newcomb, 25 years old, was arrested for allegedly killing his grandmother, Kathleen. The reported trigger leading to tragedy was a verbal argument between the two parties over what program to watch on television. Clarence was scheduled for arraignment on Saturday, January 5, 2012 at the first district court in Islip.

However, arraignment was postponed until Sunday, January 6, 2012. A Suffolk County judge denied bail for Clarence. He will remain under medical supervision in jail as he awaits trial. Arraignment was postponed since Clarence was not released from Stony Brook University Hospital until Saturday morning after an evaluation.

According to prosecutors described by Newsday, Clarence was described as choking his grandmother, Kathleen, and putting his knee on her back until she was no longer breathing. Clarence was charged with first degree manslaughter, which NYS law describes as “a killing that may happen as a result of someone wanting to cause physical harm but not necessarily death” or “when the person causes another’s death ‘under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance.”‘

According to Newsday, police reported that Clarence has a history of psychiatric concerns. Friends “insist he’s never been violent.” One of Clarence’s and Kathleen’s neighbors reported that Clarence was taking new medication for headaches, and described that medication as having “serious side effects.” Newsday quoted three of Clarence’s childhood friends who attended the arraignment. His behavior was described to be in “stark contrast to the gregarious friend they grew up with.” Police report that Clarence was being treated for migraines days before the tragedy occurring. Newsday reported that days prior he also “complained about buzzing sounds that led him to take down the family’s smoke detectors in an effort to silence the noise.” He was also described as sitting in the dark “for hours” alone.

Two hours before his arrest at 4:35am, Clarence is described as arriving at the home of his neighbor, June Lanzer, carrying a baseball bat and talking “about needing to ‘save'” June’s grandson, Mark Lanzer. Clarence was also described as speaking about living friends and family members as if they were dead. Newsday reported June saying Clarence was “intensely protective” of his grandmother, Kathleen, but “his mood had recently changed.” She reported to Newsday that Clarence “‘complained about migraines,'” and “‘started to talk oddly, way out of the norm.'” Newsday reported June as inviting Clarence to spend the night, but he responded with a stare. After locking the front door, June reported that Clarence “sat on the porch for more than an hour with his head in his hands.”

Whether or not Clarence’s behavior was influenced by mental health and/or medical concerns, the decision is now in the hands of the legal system. The circumstances surrounding the death of Kathleen and the arrest of Clarence sounds like a double tragedy. My condolences go to the family, friends, and community affected by this tragedy, and hope that everyone affected can find peace.

While researching for this article, I also read the comments posted to the articles associated with this double tragedy. Some of the comments further sadden me as I continued read different points of view about what happened, about the life of Kathleen, and the person Clarence was described as. It also disappointed me the comments of hate people wrote in reaction to articles. It encourages me to remind others about the following:

No one other than Kathleen and Clarence were there during the time this tragedy occurred, and the case is still in the beginning process. If mental and/or  medical illness was involved, both are complex. A person with mental health and/or medical issues does more than simply getting “a grip.”  Helping an individual with mental health and/or medical issues requires collaboration between different parties such as the client, family, medical doctors, and mental health professionals. It is a continuous process, and has to become a part of the person’s lifestyle.


Information for the article was gathered from the following sources: 

“Crime Nearby: Kings Park man accused of killing grandmother,” by Huntington Patch Staff. Link for article: http://huntington.patch.com/articles/crime-nearby-kings-park-man-accused-of-killing-grandmother-418a8da8
“Man killed grandmother after dispute over TV Show: Police,” by The Associated Press. Link for article: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/killed+grandmother+after+dispute+over+show+Police/7780511/story.html
“Updated: No bail for man who allegedly killed grandmother,” by Henry Powederly. Link for article: http://kingspark.patch.com/articles/report-man-who-allegedly-killed-grandmother-was-erratic
“No bail for Kings Park man accused of killing grandmother,” by: Laura Figueroa. Link for article: http://www.newsday.com/long-island/suffolk/no-bail-for-kings-park-man-accused-of-killing-grandmother-1.4412861
“Alleged grandmother-killer, Clarence Newcomb complained of migraines, friends say,” by Robert Brodsky. Link for article: http://www.socialjusticesolutions.org/wp-admin/post.php?post=9441&action=edit&message=10

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