Murder Tale Filled With Strangling, Poisoning -- Relatives Accused Of Killing Woman Who Didn't `Enjoy Life'

The daughter and the mother said they first tried to poison the 79-year-old grandmother, Suzine Van Sickle, by mixing her medicine with clam chowder.

But when she failed to succumb to the overdose and awoke the next day, the two women allegedly smothered her with a pillow, they told police.

They did it, they told police, because they felt she couldn't enjoy life anymore.

The murder, it turned out, was a family affair, according to court records. It was done by Van Sickle's daughter and granddaughter who took her from a nursing home and squandered her private funds, prosecutors said.

Yesterday, prosecutors filed first-degree murder charges against the woman's daughter, Jimmie Jean Shumway, 59, and grandaughter, Alexis M. Shumway, 28.

Bail was set at $500,000 each. Jimmie Jean Shumway is in the King County jail. The granddaughter was expected to turn herself in today, prosecutors said.

The bizarre tale of the grandmother who died Nov. 18 in her home, in the 4400 block of South Brandon Street, was unraveled this week.

Deputy Prosecutor Lisa Marchese said the two almost got away with murder.

``The police never would have learned about it if the granddaughter had not called police on Feb. 12 saying she wanted to report a murder,'' the prosecutor said.

The daughter, contacted by homicide detectives Monday, also confirmed the killing, saying the two concluded Van Sickle did not have the ability ``to enjoy life'' so they decided to kill her, according to the charges.

Marchese said the King County medical examiner also is looking into the death of Van Sickle's husband, George, who died ``under mysterious circumstances'' Jan. 13, 1990, in the presence of Jimmie Jean Shumway.

According to Alexis Shumway's account, Suzine Van Sickle had spent her last years in a nursing home after having hip surgeries. She also had a heart problem and brain seizures and required extensive care.

The two women had removed Van Sickle from a nursing home in October.

Alexis Shumway said she and her mother decided Nov. 17 to poison Van Sickle, according to court documents.

Jimmie Jean, after consulting the Physicians' Desk Reference book, decided to try an overdose of Dilantin, an antiseizure medicine.

Alexis described how they chopped up more than 50 pills and mixed them with clam chowder, which Jimmie Jean fed to Van Sickle, according to court documents.

But when Van Sickle was still alive the next morning, Jimmie Jean grabbed a pillow and put it over her mother's face, the documents say.

Van Sickle ``struggled for her life for about 20 minutes'' and tried to fight back, the charges indicate. Jimmie Jean then directed Alexis to ``hold down one side of the pillow so no air could seep in.'' The victim eventually stopped struggling, the prosecutor said.

Suzine and George Van Sickle had decided in 1974 to donate their bodies to science. Several hours after Van Sickle died on Nov. 18, when her face returned to a ``normal'' color, the university's School of Medicine was called, Alexis said. Police retrieved a sample of Van Sickle's blood and her ashes. The blood sample showed a level of Dilantin that far exceeded normal therapeutic levels.

Van Sickle, when examined by her physician Nov. 5, was in ``good stable condition'' and ``mentally clear,'' according to the charges.

According to Alexis, Van Sickle was removed from the nursing center because it had a lien on the Van Sickle home for outstanding bills. The personal banker for the Van Sickles invested more than $100,000 that Suzine Van Sickle received in a settlement of a lawsuit over her husband's black-lung disease, the prosecutor said..