Murder victim given handfuls of unprescribed pills before death at TX group home: warrant

Police say the owner of unlicensed group homes in Arlington and Mansfield gave a resident — whose death was ruled a homicide — several pills a day that weren’t prescribed to him and interfered with his doctor’s visits, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Regla Becquer, who owned and operated “Love and Caring for People LLC,” was charged with murder Thursday in connection to the death of 60-year-old Steven Kelly Pankratz, who died on Jan. 12. She has been in the Tarrant County jail since earlier this year on a charge of endangering another resident who told police she was abused and held against her will.

Pankratz’s death was ruled a homicide by a Tarrant County medical examiner, and the autopsy shows he died due to mixed drug toxicity of trazodone, tramadol and mirtazapine.

An ongoing Arlington police investigation had identified 20 deaths connected to the group homes, including Pankratz.

The arrest warrant on the murder charge says that soon after the victim moved into one of the boarding homes, Pankratz’s brother was removed as his power of attorney and he believes Becquer claimed the title.

After the victim had been staying at the group home for six months, Becquer called Pankratz’s brother, saying the man was going to have to live with him because he spent $100,000 in those six months, the affidavit states.

The brother sent Becquer $37,000 and with time, she would allow less and less contact between him and Pankratz, according to his interview with police. When he was able to talk to Pankratz, it was only through Becquer’s phone, the warrant states.

The victim’s brother also informed police of an incident at one of Pankratz’s doctor’s visits, during which Becquer would not allow the doctor to speak to him alone. She took Pankratz home before finalizing his visit, according to police.

A law firm handling a lawsuit for Pankratz in a separate incident reported he missed 13 appointments between January and September of 2023. The appointments were to document his medical status during the suit.

The victim’s brother informed police he spoke to him about 12 hours before his death, noticing his speech was slurred and it sounded as if he had something in his mouth. He had several concerns about his brother’s death and did not know which house Pankratz was staying at, the warrant says.

Pankratz revealed to his brother that Becquer would give him a handful of pills twice a day, and he was unaware of what the medication was.

In searches of three of the group homes, police found large amounts of medication prescribed to former residents who are still alive, deceased residents, Becquer, and her family members. The medications were for a range of drugs, but there were several empty prescription bottles for trazodone found, according to the warrant.

Officers said they confirmed Pankratz was never prescribed trazodone and that Becquer took responsibility for his appointments and medical care.

Several residents of the homes told their families that they thought they were being poisoned, according to court documents. At least two residents described attempts to forcibly give them a liquid medication, which they said was not prescribed for them.

On one night, a woman told police, she was awakened by a man who matched Pankratz’s description screaming, “Get off of me!” the arrest warrant affidavit states. After she heard the screams, the resident said Becquer and another woman came into her room with a cup of blue liquid and a syringe and the resident grabbed a letter opener to defend herself. Police were called and the resident was taken to a hospital, the warrant states.

Becquer told the family members of patients that she administered medications and that she gave the patients “something” so that they would not run away, according to the warrant.

On Jan. 12, officers went to the group home where Pankratz was staying in response to a report of him “not awake not breathing.”

First responders attempted life-saving measures on Pankratz, but when he was taken to a hospital, he was pronounced dead, police said.

When officers responded to the home, they spoke to Jesse Kuprat, who authorities identified as the son of Becquer.

Kuprat initially told officers Pankratz was his uncle before stating that he was just a family friend, the warrant reads. He said he and the staff were moving Pankratz to his room when they noticed something was wrong and that he was passed out while they put him in bed. This happened about 10 minutes before authorities arrived, Kuprat told officers.

Kuprat searched for a pulse and could not get Pankratz to open his eyes, the warrant states. Another person in the group home at the time told officers Pankratz had thrown up earlier that day.

Becquer also arrived at the home the day Pankratz was found unresponsive, telling officers she was a family friend of his, according to the warrant. She added that ever since her staff moved Pankratz from a group home in Mansfield, he had been “back and forth” but did not specify what that meant, the warrant says.

Firefighters who attempted to provide aid to Pankratz said his mouth was stiff, indicating rigor mortis. Rigor mortis takes anywhere from an hour to two hours to begin once a person has died, according to police.

Becquer has been previously accused of preventing patients in her care from seeking medical attention, failing to properly care for them, attempting to keep them from talking with family members, using their debit and credit cards, and using cars and phones of clients who had died, investigators wrote in search warrant affidavits. Families also told police their relatives’ conditions deteriorated under Becquer’s care.

Investigators wrote in the affidavits that they believe Becquer stole from her patients, gave them dangerous medications, and forged wills and other documents for her financial gain. In two cases, Becquer or her family inherited the estates of patients who died, court documents say.

Three search warrants obtained by the Star-Telegram in March said investigators identified 13 people who had died since 2022 while at or immediately after leaving the group homes. In April, police linked seven more deaths to the homes.

Several of Becquer’s clients died before the investigation into the group homes began, so getting specific information in some cases may be difficult, Arlington police said in April.