The Richmond Register

July 24, 2008

Death is now ruled a homicide

Heather Harris

It wasn’t a fall that ended the life of an elderly Richmond woman this week.

It was murder.

New information in the death case of Joann Tribble, 78, who was found injured in her home early Monday morning has changed the cause of death from an accident to a homicide, according to the Richmond Police Department.

“The (state) medical examiner ruled the death a homicide based on evidence that Tribble’s injuries were caused by being struck in the head by an object,” Sgt. Willard Reardon said Thursday morning.

Police and emergency officials initially were called to Tribble’s home about 1:30 a.m. Monday after a caller said an elderly female had “fallen and was unconscious,” Reardon said.

The responding officers found Tribble alive, but unconscious and suffering from a serious head injury that originally was suspected of being caused by a fall.

Tribble initially was transported to Pattie A. Clay Medical Center by Madison County EMS and later transferred to the University of Kentucky Medical Center where she was pronounced dead by the Fayette County Coroner’s Office at 10:50 a.m.

Police meanwhile processed the scene at Tribble’s home in a “precautionary” manner.

“That is customary in cases where the manner of death has not been fully established,” Reardon said.

Richmond Police Chief Larry Brock said details at the scene did not immediately point to the case as a homicide investigation.

“The original release indicated that it appeared to be an accidental fall because there were no obvious signs to investigators of foul play,” Brock said.

The State Medical Examiner’s Office performed an autopsy Tuesday morning on Tribble to clarify and establish the cause of death. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide based on evidence that Tribble’s head injuries were “caused by being struck in the head by an object, rather than by the reported fall,” Reardon said. “This is something that would not necessarily have been detectable by officers at the scene,” Brock said.

Such cases are why detectives try to cover the bases when called to injury or death reports, Brock added.

“That is exactly why we processed it like we would a crime scene because we all know, that occasionally, things are not as they seem to be,” he said.

“We are actively pursuing the case,” Reardon said. “There are things going on that we’re not going to disclose because we don’t want to jeopardize the case.”

Brock did say there was “no evidence of forcible entry at the residence” and “at this time there is no evidence of robbery.”

Although police do not know the exact type of object used in the assault, they have “general parameters to work with,” but did not want to go into specific detail about the possible murder weapon or possible suspects, Brock said.

“The important thing is that we processed the scene and nothing was compromised so we will not be hindered in any way in our investigation by the original perception that it was a fall.”

Heather Harris can be reached at hharris@richmondregister.com or by phone at 624-6694 or 893-2341.