Then minutes later, inside Room 628 at Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Henry Sochalski, 64, was found silent and still with a disconnected trache-ostomy collar, an empty syringe on his chest and a bright red nose, according to an incident report from the Daytona Beach Police Department.
He was pronounced dead about 8:30 a.m. May 19, with his wife nearby.
“He just went in there for back surgery and he was not expected to succumb to those injuries,” Jimmie Flynt of the Daytona Beach Police Department told CBS affiliate WKMG.
On Monday, Jan Sochalski, 61, was arrested on a second-degree murder charge, after police said she suffocated her husband while he was recovering from elective back surgery.
Daytona Beach Police Sgt. Scott Goss said an initial investigation showed “she did things consistent with trying to end his life.”
“She admits certain involvements but recuses herself of other involvements that would have caused his death,” Goss told The Washington Post.
Sochalski told police that she had neither suffocated her husband nor done anything else to cause his death, according to the police report. The Volusia County Public Defender’s Office said Tuesday that Sochalski has not yet been assigned a lawyer in the case.
Authorities said they are still trying to determine whether she killed her husband in cold blood or was merely a grieving soon-to-be widow who wanted to end her husband’s suffering.
Henry Sochalski’s obituary described him as a “man of few words who was a beloved father and husband.”
He was a retired New Jersey police officer who had been with the Trenton Police Department for nearly 25 years. He loved motorcycles. And he loved Jan, “his childhood sweetheart,” it said.
He died, it said, “surrounded by his loving family.”
On April 7, Sochalski went into the hospital for back surgery, but doctors expected him to make a full recovery, according to the police report.
To help, doctors gave him a powerful pain medication, dilaudid, which was administered through his IV when he pushed a button at his bedside. A nurse said she saw Jan Sochalski giving him the drug and told her to stop.
One nurse told police that “the pain medication machine was checked and it was found to have been pressed 264 times in an 8-hour period, whereas it should have only been pressed 6 times an hour,” according to the report.
However, the nurse added that “the machine has a built in safety mechanism that ensures that the machine does not dispense more medication than the doctor prescribed, even if the button is pressed multiple times.”
But it’s still unclear why, by April 9, Henry Sochalski had gone into respiratory and cardiac arrest, according to the report.
After a month with little or no improvement, he was placed in “comfort care” at the hospital, where his wife waited by his side.
Hospital workers said Jan Sochalski, a nurse for 40 years, had been unhappy with her husband’s care.
One day, hospital security was called to his room because, a nurse said, Jan Sochalski had been complaining about her husband’s treatment and threatening to get his gun and shoot people, according to the police report.
Later, she requested pain medications for her husband but would not allow his medical team to administer other medications, such as antibiotics, that doctors had prescribed.
A nurse told police that Jan Sochalski asked for medications that would “decrease his respirator status.”
The nurse said that “such a request was basically asking her to kill the patient, because if someone can’t breathe then that is not compatible with life,” according to the report.
Then on May 18, Jan Sochalski signed a “Do Not Resuscitate” order; that same day, a nurse said, Sochalski would not let medical personnel into her husband’s hospital room.
Jan Sochalski told police that she had spoken with her husband’s nurse and that the two came to the same conclusion — that Henry Sochalski’s condition was worsening and he did not have much time left to live.
In the early morning hours of May 19, Sochalski said, she went home to rest.
But, she later told police, she could not sleep and returned to his room.
At about 8 a.m., she said, she lowered her husband’s bed, removed his humidifier, and lay down on top of him and hugged him around his neck — wanting to be near him.
It was apparently around that time that nurses said it appeared as if she was pinching her husband’s nose.
Sochalski later told police that her husband’s heart monitor alerted nurses that something was wrong.
“She did little things: Laid him flat, she disconnected his oxygen tube, she laid on top of a person that was having trouble breathing,” Goss, with the Daytona Beach Police Department, told NBC affiliate WESH.
He added: “There are several things that she did along the way that don’t seem to match up with her trying to help him get better.”
Autopsy results showed that Henry Sochalski died from asphyxia, and his death was ruled a homicide, according to the police report.
Joe Mullin of the Volusia County Medical Examiner’s Office told investigators that Jan Sochalski called him and asked whether her husband was brain-dead when he died.
“Joe Mullin stated that he did not know, and then Jan Sochalski stated that she wanted to be sure that she had made the right decision,” according to the police report.
If convicted of second-degree murder, authorities said, Jan Sochalski could face life in prison. Court records show she is being held on $250,000 bail.