Jack Koency was a quiet man whose shoes made funny noises when he walked and who loved his World War II medals, neighbors said Wednesday.
The 86-year-old Laguna Niguel resident died Sept. 30 in an alleged assisted suicide, and his accused accomplice was arrested Wednesday morning.
Elizabeth Barrett, 66, faces up to three years in state prison for allegedly providing Koency a lethal dose of Oxycontin mixed into yogurt.
Barrett, a Laguna Woods resident, was being held on $25,000 bail.
Koency was a resident of , a resort-like, 55-and-up apartment community where units rent for $1,340 to $1,705 a month. It features a lavish community center, swimming pool and dining room, plus lush grounds and two highrise towers.
The WWII veteran lived in apartment No. 104, which has since been renovated but remains vacant.
His neighbor across the hallway, Nancy Cunningham, described Koency as "a very quiet man" with whom she would exchange an occasional hello.
"He pretty much stayed to himself," she said Wednesday afternoon, standing outside her apartment door in a pink sweater. "He would go downstairs for coffee and doughnuts with a friend of mine who lives upstairs and they'd swap war stories."
A few days after his death, investigators knocked on her door to ask questions, she said.
"I was freaked out by it because it was 9:30 at night and they handed me a card saying they were detectives. I was surprised to hear that Jack may have committed suicide and that he had everything planned, and laid it all out. He seemed so good-natured and not the type."
Cunningham, who has lived in the complex for nine years, said she never saw Barrett coming or going from Koency's apartment.
"They say that he had searched on his computer [for] ways to commit suicide, and I just find that hard to believe," she added. "It's sad, and I feel very sad about it, even though it was months ago."
Another tenant on the same floor, Rozann Howard, 71, said, "I only saw him a few times and he was quiet. He'd say hello but that's about it. Three days before he died, however, I did see him and the woman in question, a redhead, drive by me in a car. I guess I just noticed because you don't see many redheads."
Resident Joyce Jones, who was walking her dog Zack near the apartment complex fountain on Wednesday, also described Koency as a reserved man. But she recalled that "his shoes always clicked when he walked and he had a raspy voice."
Management declined to comment about Koency or his death.
Authorities said Koency was not terminally ill, bedridden or immobile.
Barrett reportedly met Koency a few years ago and they occasionally socialized at Starbucks as part of a larger group. After having no contact for several months, they reconnected a week before Koency's death, authorities said.
On the morning of Sept. 30, Barrett allegedly drove Koency to the Neptune Society so he could make his own funeral arrangements. She is accused of going to a store and purchasing yogurt, a bottle of brandy and over-the-counter heartburn medication. The last item can be used to prevent acid reflux, which is common when a person takes a large dose of medication, authorities said.
Barrett then drove Koency back to his apartment, crushed a lethal amount of Oxycontin and mixed it into the yogurt with the intention of assisting Koency in committing suicide, authorities alleged. She then gave the deadly yogurt to Koency, who ate it, went into his bedroom, laid down and died, authorities said.
Afterward, Barrett is accused of removing his WWII medals from the wall and putting them in her car. After waiting awhile, she called 911 to report finding Koency dead, authorities said. The Orange County Sheriff's Department responded and investigated the case.
In the course of its investigation, OCSD discovered a motion-activated camera that reportedly showed Barrett crushing the medication, mixing it in the yogurt and giving it to Koency, then removing the medals from the wall.
"He loved those medals so much, and was so proud of them, so I find it hard to believe that they weren't stolen," Cunningham said. "They say she removed them."