Beyond the tragedy
WORTHINGTON — A representative from the Southwestern Mental Health Center will provide grief counseling and group meetings with staff today at Crossroads Care Center in Worthington, days after an elderly man apparently shot and killed his wife and then himself in the local nursing home.
Barb Atchison, administrator of Crossroads, said Monday that staff walked around in “shock and disbelief” over the weekend, following the late Friday night shooting.
Friday marked the two-week anniversary of Doris Doust’s move into the care center. Due to privacy laws, Atchison said she was not allowed to say why Doris became a resident at Crossroads. However, Atchison said Doris’ husband, George Doust, was devoted to her.
“He basically was here from early morning to bedtime — stayed here until she went to bed and actually until she fell asleep,” Atchison shared.
On Friday, Atchison said George had been with Doris for most of the day, leaving only for a short time around mid-afternoon.
Staff may never know why George brought a handgun into the facility and shot Doris before turning the gun on himself. Employees working Friday night heard the shots in a private room at approximately 9:45 p.m. Friday.
“We interviewed employees after this happened to determine if there was any indication that he had had any kind of mood changes — mood swings, depression, anything like that — or that he expressed in any way that he was unhappy with the care, and absolutely none,” Atchison said. “(They were) just a very congenial couple, enjoyable to talk to. We had absolutely no indication he was planning anything like this.”
Atchison was called to Crossroads Care Center around 10 p.m. Friday, along with the social services director and two resident care coordinators.
They remained on the scene until shortly after Worthington police officers, Nobles County Sheriff’s deputies and ambulance personnel left, she said.
On Monday, Atchison and staff met with residents during a Resident Council meeting at Crossroads.
“We assured them that all was well and offered them the same opportunity if they would like to participate in any kind of counseling,” she said. “No one expressed they were concerned for their safety. They all felt safe.
“This was an isolated incident that we could not have foreseen, nor that we could have prevented,” she added.
In addition to the grief counseling sessions planned for staff today, Atchison said a staff training later this month will focus on being alert to changes in resident conditions — mood or behavior.
“I don’t believe there was anything in this case we could have done to prevent it because there absolutely was no indication that this man was unhappy,” she added.
George and Doris Doust resided in Worthington after they were married in 2005. George, a World War II veteran, was featured in a Daily Globe article in July 2010, as he looked forward to participating in the second Honor Flight Southwest Minnesota trip.
In that article, Doust spoke of getting to know Doris as a wartime pen pal. He’d been encouraged to write to the “young lady in Worthington” by another fellow while in boot camp.
After working as a radio operator and submarine relief crew member in the Pacific Theater during World War II, George returned to home for a job in logging equipment maintenance, but not before meeting Doris face to face.
Each raised a family, and then met again in “an incredible coincidence” at George’s high school reunion in Klamath Falls, Ore., in the 1990s.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.