From the outside, Phyllis and Norman Eson looked like an elderly couple content to retire near family in Western New York.
But some caught glimpses that hinted of trouble. Phyllis A. Eson, 83, struggled to care for her 89-year-old husband, who reportedly had Alzheimer’s disease. And she had “aggression issues,” a neighbor said.
A call from a concerned landlord culminated in Tonawanda police discovering her lifeless husband on the floor of their home, where he had been lying dead for several hours.
When police arrived at their home, Phyllis Eson opened the door and had blood on her clothes, police said. She appeared confused.
Police arrested Phyllis Eson on a second-degree murder charge Monday. Authorities said she beat her husband to death in their home on the 100 block of Hawthorne Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda.
“The blows were bad, but it’s also the fact that he was an old man,” said Town of Tonawanda police spokesman Joseph F. Carosi. “It takes a lot less to cause the death of a person who is of that age than a young, virile person.”
The landlord, who asked not to be identified, said Mrs. Eson tried to deceive the police.
“She was nasty; he was senile,” the landlord said.
A family member said the couple had been together for at least 50 years. He was a retired pharmacist.
The incident startled neighbors.
“The last time I saw her, she was getting in an ambulance and had blood all over her nightgown,” a neighbor said of Mrs. Eson.
Police checked on the couple at the request of the landlord, who is related to the Esons and lives next door to them.
Police arrived at the residence at about 10 p.m. Sunday.
The landlord called 911 while visiting Ohio over the holiday weekend. He said it was a welfare call – he was concerned about Norman’s well-being because he said Mrs. Eson did not treat him well.
An autopsy determined Mr. Eson died from blunt force blows to his head.
Carosi said a motive has not yet been determined. He said a judge has ordered a forensic investigation.
“Because of her age, he wants to have her checked out and make sure she fully understands the charges and gravity of the charges,” Carosi said.
Killing Mr. Eson is like killing a baby, the landlord said. Neighbors said he had Alzheimer’s disease.
“They were old, and she couldn’t handle taking care of him,” a Hawthorne Avenue resident said. “She had some aggression issues.”
Mr. Eson was described as a friendly retired pharmacist, not capable of taking care of himself but not frail or helpless.
“He could walk and talk and eat,” the landlord said.
The Esons’ pistachio-green house sits in a quiet, unassuming neighborhood, between the Kenilworth Volunteer Fire Company and the Kenilworth playground.
The area is two streets from Niagara Falls Boulevard, just over the Tonawanda border and near Buffalo’s University district.
Another neighbor said there is rarely police activity on the block and “it is not a troubled neighborhood.” He said the Esons were good neighbors but he did not know them well.
The couple was new to the street. They lived in Vancouver, B.C., for most of their adult lives, the landlord said.
The couple lived in Fort Myers, Fla., from 2000 to 2006, until they moved to Allentown, Pa., where they purchased a home in her name.
They lived in Allentown until April of this year, when they moved to Tonawanda.
She also owned a home on Main Street in Tonawanda from 1997 until May of this year, when the house went into foreclosure. She owned another home on Fiddlers Green in East Amherst until 2000.
Mrs. Eson is scheduled to appear in court at 4 p.m. Monday.