DOROTHY SZANY: Police seek more evidence in brutal 2006 beating

Woman, 85, died while Alzheimer's patient husband sat on porch
2009-01-04T00:00:00Z DOROTHY SZANY: Police seek more evidence in brutal 2006 beatingDAN HINKEL
January 04, 2009 12:00 am  • 

HAMMOND | The men who drink in the Cavalier Inn sometimes walk across Gostlin Street, cross themselves in front of the shrine to Dorothy Szany, then walk away.

Angela Patterson welcomes those visits to her home at 740 Gostlin St., the former home and murder scene of Szany, her grandmother. Patterson also welcomes passersby who ask about the shrine and listen, horrified, as she explains the elderly churchgoing woman, the bludgeoning, the husband with Alzheimer's disease, the discovery, the open investigation.

In a city acquainted with violent crime, Szany's death on May 24, 2006, remains an electric shock to Hammond's sense of decency. No one has been arrested.

"It just hurts because she was an old woman," Patterson said.

Szany, 85, was found beaten to death -- beaten beyond death, truly -- when police and firefighters responded to reports of a kitchen fire that started as her unattended dinner burned after her death. Her husband, Joseph, an Alzheimer's patient, sat on the porch, oblivious to the attack on his wife.

Szany lay dead of many blows from a blunt object alongside an old 7-Up truck in the home's side yard. Joseph Szany collected rusting cars and other oddities in the home's yard in the unpretentious working-class neighborhood of North Hammond.

Joseph probably never has understood what happened to "Ma," Patterson said.

"He's got a fairly good attitude," Patterson said.

Investigators have identified a person of interest, but detectives seek more evidence, Hammond police Sgt. Wendy Gardner said.

A local American Legion Post continues to offer a $2,500 reward for the killer's arrest. Szany developed squadrons of admirers for her decades of service to St. Joseph Catholic Church and the church's soup kitchen.

This case bothers Gardner. Here was an 85-year-old woman with an Alzheimer's patient husband and decades of service to the poor, a personal history of mercy. And her life ended with a merciless beating.

"Just an angel to this society," Gardner said.

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