The ordeal of Isabel, the political aunt of actor Luis Lorenzo

On March 9, 2021, the day before getting into her niece Arantxa’s car on the way to Madrid, Isabel Suárez Arias, an 85-year-old Asturian, did all the things she used to do. She took a walk around her garden in Las Regueras (1,877 inhabitants, Asturias), a small council where she lived with her husband, until he died years ago and she was left a widow. They had no children. She then settled in a flat in Grado, 23 kilometers from Oviedo, where she used to go by train to sell the products she grew and the eggs from her hens in the market; and, incidentally, she got extra money, to reach 1,000 euros with her pension.

That Wednesday, Isabel only planted half of the potatoes and left the other half for another day. She ate a pot that she had cooked for her niece, Lorena, who went to see her at her house every two weeks, but she did not say anything about her planning to go to the capital the next day. In fact, she had a fridge full of fresh produce.

Hours later, with the first light of the morning, her neighbor Lidia saw her leave in a white car “with her niece Arantxa [Palomino], her husband, the actor Luis Lorenzo, and their two children”. They must have left in a hurry because they left the heating on.

On May 25, the Civil Guard arrested the couple. They are accused of “murder” for having poisoned the old woman (with cadmium and manganese) to keep a large part of her inheritance. The judge has released them on provisional release, after both pleaded not guilty and Arantxa tried to take her life in the dungeon. The case still has important unknowns and a single certainty: Isabel’s last months were terrible.

Isabel Suárez Arias, in an image published by the family.
Isabel Suárez Arias, in an image published by the family.

He died on June 28, 2021, three months after arriving with his niece in Madrid. She did it by herself, in the smallest room on a fourth floor in Rivas-Vaciamadrid. After several days hardly moving in a bed from which she almost never got up. When the caregiver went to see her, at eight in the morning, she had to notify Arantxa and Luis Lorenzo by phone that she was “cold, white, and not breathing”, according to the police report. The couple had taken a train to Asturias at dawn, supposedly to present a series of medical reports on “the aunt” at the Civil Guard barracks in Grado, after having learned of a complaint filed by José María, one of the Isabel’s three brothers, for their “disappearance”.

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They turned around, called the emergency services to alert them to what had happened and arrived at their house after eating, where apart from the deceased and the caregiver, there were also the children. At five in the afternoon (later than the funeral home) the doctor arrived to certify a death that, according to the police report, she does not remember having signed, despite the fact that she recognizes her signature on the paper. Natural death: “Cerebro-vascular accident”, she puts it.

The judicial investigation, which began with that complaint of “disappearance” filed at the Avilés barracks and carried out by the Homicide Group of the Madrid command, concludes that his death was “violent” and that the cause is “intoxication with metals heavy (cadmium and manganese)”, since the cadmium was found in an amount 200 times higher than normal. However, it does not explain how these toxins could reach the blood without leaving a trace in his liver or in his respiratory tract.

Inadequate drug administration

Given the “rarity” of the case, more and more coroners consulted consider that the death in this case could be “more related to an inadequate or negligent administration of drugs”, which led the old woman to live a real ordeal before To die.

The autopsy detects a good number of psychopharmaceuticals (antipsychotics and neuroleptics). The director of the National Institute of Toxicology, Antonio Alonso, assured this Tuesday in an interview with EL PAÍS that cadmium is redistributed from the liver to the blood by a biochemical process that occurs post-mortem and that has been verified in other cases, in which the hypothesis of poisoning has been dismissed, despite very high levels of this mineral appearing in forensic analyses.

The prosecutor in the case has requested a new forensic report to clarify all these doubts. And the investigators will now have to analyze if, as the forensic experts say, a possible negligent administration of drugs and an inattention that borders on abuse can be enough to support the accusation of murder.

Isabel spent three months, hand in hand with her niece, visiting the neurological and general consultations of different medical centers in Madrid. At the same time, even with her “mouth turned” and in a wheelchair, she took her to the notary’s office to change her will, or for her to make a power of attorney and be authorized to access her bank accounts.

At least four different doctors saw her and diagnosed her. “Memory disorders” (March 12, 2021, the day after arriving in Madrid), “mild or moderate dementia” (March 30), “tongue disease” (April 7)”, “Quetiapine prescription [antipsicótico]” (April 19), “polytrauma” due to falls and “severe dementia with behavior disorder” (April 29), “several falls” (May 7), “dizziness and drowsiness” (May 10), “severe confusional” (June 2), Alzheimer’s and Lewy bodies in moderate-severe phase” (June 7)… And the reports of the director of the Felizvita care company are devastating: “State of abandonment”, “lice” , “neglect”, “without medication”, “lack of thickener to swallow”.

Isabel had a hospital admission for a possible stroke on June 1: “She was babbling”, warns the doctor who treated her. Arantxa did not accompany her to the hospital “because she had to do her homework with her son”, and later she signed the voluntary discharge to take her to her house, after visiting the notary. On two occasions, two different notaries refused to admit her signature due to her deterioration.

The arguments for her to take the pills could be heard throughout the neighborhood: “You have to take them, they have ordered it for you”, Arantxa could be heard shouting. Elizabeth resisted. In the end, she couldn’t even swallow anymore, and her niece forced her, according to the neighbors and the police report. Then she was found disoriented and in a bathrobe in the garage bathroom, where she was going to clean up, it is not known why. She was on the wrong floor. She was at the wrong door.

Isabel “wasn’t there”, as she told her lifelong friend, Montse Gutiérrez, which happened to her when she went to Madrid. In addition, she complained that “the quarters were taken from her”, she declares. In three months, Arantxa and Luis Lorenzo, without known work since 2015 and 2016 respectively, used 23,000 euros from their account, with the justification of “medical care expenses”. The caregiver (24 hours) received 1,800 euros per month.

According to her Asturian relatives, who also watched Isabel closely to the point of knowing the money she had in her checking account and how she handled her passbook, the woman was fine before leaving for Madrid. With her ailments: “deafness”, “a tremor in one hand”, “some forgetfulness in the kitchen”, “some error with handling money”, “varicose veins”… “Things typical of her age”. And, not being able to contact her and after Arantxa’s evasiveness about her, they denounced.

“She told my mother, moments before leaving, that she was leaving to take care of the children and would be back in a few days,” says her niece María José, José María’s daughter. “She told me that her brothers controlled her and that she did not feel free,” says her caregiver.

Isabel returned to Asturias, after three months in Madrid, in a coffin. Her niece, Arantxa de Ella, with several court cases open against her relatives and her ex-partner, did not notify anyone. The Asturians found out from her friend Montse de Ella, whom she did call. Her brothers and nephews rushed to the Grado funeral home and to the court, consecutively, to request an autopsy. The funeral was delayed a day for that reason. And during her funeral, in the parish of Las Regueras, there were accusations of “murderers” towards the couple from Madrid, which led Arantxa and Luis Lorenzo to denounce them as well.

Isabel lived alone, with her things, with her garden and her chickens, but in the midst of murky family relationships that have verbal and legal disputes over her inheritance as a background. “She used to say that for her brothers in equal parts”, assure the relatives of Asturias that she commented when they asked her about her will. In the last document, modified in the company of his niece Arantxa a month before he died, when a doctor had already diagnosed him with “severe dementia”, he leaves his apartment in Grado to her, his brother José María some land, and the rest the remainder.

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