Following the brutal death of Sandra Zeck at the hands of her Alzheimer’s-suffering husband Jesse, facts began to emerge about a loving, giving couple
When the story first broke on Thursday (2/4), headlines proclaimed a brutal murder of a 75 year-old woman. Sandra Zeck had been bludgeoned to death with a claw hammer inside her garage at 42 Orchard Terrace in Sodus.
The incident first came to light when Sandra’s husband of 38 years, Jesse J. Zeck, age 79, walked up to the door of neighbor and friend Dave Osborne at 9:55 p.m. He knocked on the door and spoke directly to Osborne, a retired Sheriff’s Investigator. “I need help”, said Jesse, who was covered in blood.
As Jesse turned around and walked down Osborn’s driveway, Dave called 911 for help. Within a half minute Sheriff’s Deputies arrived at the scene. Jesse led them to the garage where Sandra’s body was discovered.
There was no previous history at that residence, that authorities are aware of, nor has there been any previous contact with law enforcement. In fact, the Zecks were seen by neighbors earlier in the day walking peacefully together.
A somewhat calm, confused Jesse was charged with Murder in the Second Degree and remanded to jail on no bail.
This was no case of premeditated, intentional murder. This was no case of hatred and anger. In the hours after the arrest it was revealed that Jesse had been suffering from the deteriorating effects of Alzheimer’s disease for several years.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurologic disorder that causes the brain to shrink (atrophy) and brain cells to die. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia — a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that affects a person’s ability to function independently.
Approximately 5.8 million people in the United States age 65 and older live with Alzheimer’s disease. Of those, 80% are 75 years old and older.
The early signs of the disease include forgetting recent events or conversations. As the disease progresses, a person with Alzheimer’s disease will develop severe memory impairment and lose the ability to carry out everyday tasks. Normal behavior is replaced by abnormal activities.
Alzheimer’s disease has become a reality, but this story is more about a loving couple and their lives beyond a medical diagnosis, about a story of lives well lived.
The extended family of Jesse and Sandra Zeck knew about the medical history and problems, but never imagined the final outcome.
Sandy’s younger sister, Sylvia Brodock described her sibling as “an overall wonderful person, inside and out. She was devoted to Jesse and Jesse to Sandy.” While Jesse’s mind is slipping away, it will never overshadow past accomplishments of the couple.
Sandy worked many years as an Administrative Assistant and retired from Xerox in Rochester. She loved traveling and flying with him. She mirrored Jesse’s love of flying, earning her pilot’s license as well.
Things slowly began to change, and Jesse, after years of donating flying time to worthy causes, sold his beloved planes and time spent at the Williamson Flying Club. He used to be part of Life Flight, where he would fly organs to hospitals in New York and Pennsylvania.
In addition, Sandy and Jesse were Emergency Medical Technician (EMTs) for many years and very active in the ambulance service.
Sandy also loved the St. Lawrence River and attended the yearly, “Save the River” Foundation conferences. She was a Certified Scuba Diver.
Her love of her family and home led her and Jesse to a summer residence in Cape Vincent, New York, where they enjoyed many summers and weekends boating, kayaking and swimming on the St. Lawrence River. It became a family gathering place.
Sandy’s love of music and singing was expressed by her membership in the Finger Lakes Chorale, her church choir at St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church, Sodus and other musical organizations around the Rochester area.
Sandra also volunteered for several years with the Board of Elections, Sodus and always looked forward to attending and planning many family gatherings over the years.
Sylvia connected with her older sister via phone and computer on a regular basis. “If she thought she was in any danger, she would have done something. Sandy had the connections and did the research (concerning Alzheimer’s)... if there was a feeling...”
“I really believe God brings us something good out of tragedy,” added Sylvia, who says she will add her voice to the Alzheimer’s fight.
Sylvia described Jesse as slow, constant eater who - if anything was leftover at family gatherings - would eat it. He became known as the ‘gentle bear, Ben’ to Sandra’s father many decades ago. “I can still hear him (Jesse) laugh, see him smile,” commented Sylvia. Sylvia described Sandy and Jesse as a devoted couple, who loved the river and their community, and food at Captain Jack’s in Sodus Point.
Memorial donations may be made to your local Alzheimer’s Association or St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church, Sodus, NY. A celebration of life will be scheduled at the family’s convenience.